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Effects and mechanisms of revegetation modes on cadmium and lead pollution in artificial soil on railway rock-cut slopes

Chen, Zhaoqiong, Liu, Xin, Ai, Yingwei, Chen, Jiao, Luo, Xiaoming, Chen, Jingyao, Zhong, Shihong
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.644 pp. 1602-1611
aboveground biomass, animal and human health, cadmium, cropland, heavy metals, herbs, land restoration, lead, phytoremediation, pollutants, pollution, railroads, rainfall simulation, risk, runoff, sediments, shrubs, soil, trees, vegetation
Artificial soil on railway rock-cut slopes may be considerably contaminated with cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb), which may migrate to nearby croplands and pose substantial risks to human and animal health. We investigate the influence of three types of revegetation modes – herbs (HS); herbs and shrubs (HSS); and herbs, shrubs, and trees (HSTS) – on the transportation of these heavy metals in soils. Six representative rock-cut slopes were chosen, and the vegetation, pollutant concentration, phytostabilization, and simulated rainfall were investigated. The results indicated that Cd posed a considerable ecological risk, while Pb posed a low ecological risk in the artificial soil. The erosion of artificial soil on the slopes played a primary role in the migration of Cd and Pb, because 87–91% of Cd and 85–89% of Pb was lost in sediments. Revegetation modes significantly affected the transportation of Cd and Pb. HSTS controlled a lot of Cd in their dominant plants among the three revegetation modes. HSTS not only decreased enrichment factor (EF) and ecological risk (Er) values of Cd in the soils, but also decreased runoff, sediment and cumulative migrated Cd and Pb. The relationships among multi-factors were analyzed by stepwise mediation effect test and the results indicated that root weight density, aboveground biomass and immobilization of dominant plants for Cd and Pb were important direct factors which influenced the transportation of Cd and Pb. Overall, HSTS has proven to be beneficial in controlling the migration of Cd and Pb to croplands near the slopes and reducing their environmental risk. These results can offer a tested and implementable solution for mitigating the risks posed by these pollutants around the quickly expanding railways in the study region.