Evaluation and Source of Heavy Metal Pollution in Surface Soil of Qinghai–Tibet Plateau

YANG An1,2 WANG Yi-han1,2 HU Jian3 LIU Xiao-long2 LI Jun2

(1.College of Geography and Environmental Science, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin, China 300387)
(2.Tianjin Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environment, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin, China 300387)
(3.Skate Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China 100085)
【Knowledge Link】stagnation enthalpy; box plot

【Abstract】Spatial distribution and source apportionment of heavy metals in the surface soil of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau was investigated to gain an understanding of the pollution characteristics. The surface soil (0–20 cm) samples were collected from the northeast to the southwest in the study area. The total amount of 13 heavy metals (Ba, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Sc, and Zn) was determined. The potential sources of heavy metals were preliminarily apportioned and identified by the principal component analysis–absolute principal component score–multiple linear regression (PCA–APCS–MLR) receptor model. Results show that the average contents of Cd and Sb significantly exceed the environment standard, and they were 2.13 and 1.52 the soil background values of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in the 1970 s, respectively. The enrichment factor (EF), geo-accumulation index (Igeo), and Nemero synthesis index (PN) were used to evaluate the surface soil heavy metal pollution, which indicated that Cd and Sb were also pollutants in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau with a limited contamination grade. Various levels of contamination were presented at the central, southeastern, and northeastern areas of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, while the central and southeastern areas exhibited high contamination grades. The PCA–APCS–MLR levels revealed that three main sources of heavy metals in the soil of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau were the natural, traffic, and mining factors. Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, and Sc were largely affected by natural sources, while Ba, Cd, Mo, and Pb were mainly affected by traffic factors. Specifically, Zn was influenced mainly by natural and traffic factors, and Sb was jointly affected by natural, traffic, and mining factors. Therefore, Sb and Cd contamination from traffic and mining factors should be noted in control plans for the heavy metal pollution in soil of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau.

【Keywords】 Qinghai–Tibet Plateau; surface soil; heavy metals; sources; PCA–APCS–MLR receptor model;


【Funds】 International (Regional) Cooperation and Exchange Project (4161101324) Major Research Plan of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (91644104) National Natural Science Foundation of China (41172315) Open Foundation Project of Tianjin Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Environment

Download this article


    [1] Sheng J J, Wang X P, Gong P, et al. Heavy metals of the Tibetan top soils [J]. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 2012, 19 (8): 3362–3370.

    [2] Islam M S, Hossain M B, Matin A, et al. Assessment of heavy metal pollution, distribution and source apportionment in the sediment from Feni River estuary, Bangladesh [J]. Chemosphere, 2018, 202: 25–32.

    [3] Wu J, Duan D P, Lu J, et al. Inorganic pollution around the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau: an overview of the current observations [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2016, 550: 628–636.

    [4] Li Z Y, Ma Z W, Van Der Kuijp T J, et al. A review of soil heavy metal pollution from mines in China: pollution and health risk assessment [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2014, 468–469: 843–853.

    [5] Hong H L, Dai M Y, Lu H L, et al. Risk assessment and driving factors for artificial topography on element heterogeneity: case study at Jiangsu, China [J]. Environmental Pollution, 2018, 233: 246–260.

    [6] Yang W G, Wang M E, Chen W P. Effect of a mining and smelting plant on the accumulation of heavy metals in soils in arid areas in Xinjiang [J]. Environmental Science, 2019, 40 (1): 445–452.

    [7] Yang Q Q, Li Z Y, Lu X N, et al. A review of soil heavy metal pollution from industrial and agricultural regions in China: pollution and risk assessment [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2018, 642: 690–700.

    [8] Li F, Liu S Y, Li Y, et al. Spatiotemporal variability and source apportionment of soil heavy metals in a industrially developed city [J]. Environmental Science, 2019, 40 (2): 934–944 (in Chinese).

    [9] Wang G X, Yan X F, Zhang F, et al. Influencing factors of heavy metal concentration in roadside-soil of Qinghai–Tibet Plateau [J]. Acta Scientiae Circumstantiae, 2014, 34 (2): 431–438 (in Chinese).

    [10] Chen H Y, Teng Y G, Lu S J, et al. Contamination features and health risk of soil heavy metals in China [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2015, 512–513: 143–153.

    [11] Namaghi H H, Karami G H, Saadat S. A study on chemical properties of groundwater and soil in ophiolitic rocks in Firuzabad, east of Shahrood, Iran: with emphasis to heavy metal pollution [J]. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 2011, 174 (1–4): 573–583.

    [12] Szolnoki Z, Farsang A, Puskás I. Cumulative impacts of human activities on urban garden soils: origin and accumulation of metals [J]. Environmental Pollution, 2013, 177: 106–115.

    [13] Zhang H, Wang Z F, Zhang Y L, et al. Identification of trafficrelated metals and the effects of different environments on their enrichment in roadside soils along the Qinghai–Tibet highway [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2015, 521–522: 160–172.

    [14] Chen X D, Lu X W. Source Apportionment of soil heavy metals in city residential areas based on the receptor model and geostatistics [J]. Environmental Science, 2017, 38 (6): 2513–2521 (in Chinese).

    [15] Wang X P, Yang H D, Gong P, et al. One century sedimentary records of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, mercury and trace elements in the Qinghai Lake, Tibetan Plateau [J]. Environmental Pollution, 2010, 158 (10): 3065–3070.

    [16] Gao X C, Cao X S, Li T, et al. Evolution of accessibility spatial pattern of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in 1976–2016 [J]. Acta Geographica Sinica, 2019, 74 (6): 1190–1204 (in Chinese).

    [17] Liu Y Z, Xiao T F, Xiong Y, et al. Accumulation of heavy metals in agricultural soils and crops from an area with a high geochemical background of cadmium, southwestern China [J]. Environmental Science, 2019, 40 (6): 2877–2884 (in Chinese).

    [18] Xia Z L, Li S Z, Luo J F. Characteristics of natural contents of soil elements in Karakoram and West-Kunlun Mountains of Qinghai–Tibet Plateau [J]. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 1992, 3 (1): 28–35 (in Chinese).

    [19] Zhang X P, Deng W, Yang X M. The background concentrations of 13 soil trace elements and their relationships to parent materials and vegetation in Xizang (Tibet), China [J]. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences, 2002, 21 (2): 167–174.

    [20] HJ/T 166–2004, Technical specification for soil environmental monitoring [S]. (in Chinese).

    [21] Buat-Menard P, Chesselet R. Variable influence of the atmospheric flux on the trace metal chemistry of oceanic suspended matter [J]. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 1979, 42 (3): 399–411.

    [22] Müller G. Index of geoaccumulation in sediments of the Rhine River [J]. Geojournal, 1969, 2 (3): 109–118.

    [23] China National Environmental Monitoring Center. Background value of Chinese soil elements [M]. Beijing: China Environmental Press, 1990 (in Chinese).

    [24] Wang G X, Zeng C, Zhang F, et al. Traffic-related trace elements in soils along six highway segments on the Tibetan Plateau: influence factors and spatial variation [J]. Science of the Total Environment, 2017, 581–582: 811–821.

    [25] NY/T 1054–2013, Green food—Specification for field environmental investigation, monitoring and assessment [S]. (in Chinese).

    [26] Taylor S R, Mc Lennan S M. The geochemical evolution of the continental crust [J]. Reviews of Geophysics, 1995, 33 (2): 241–265.

    [27] Bowen H J M. Environmental chemistry of the elements [M]. New York: Academic Press, 1979.

    [28] Cheng Y A, Tian J L. Background value and distribution characteristics of soil elements in Tibet [M]. Beijing: Science Press, 1993 (in Chinese).

    [29] Shu X, Li Y, Li F, et al. Impacts of land use and landscape patterns on heavy metal accumulation in soil [J]. Environmental Science, 2019, 40 (5): 2471–2482 (in Chinese).

    [30] Zhang J, Guo X Y, Zeng Y, et al. Spatial distribution and pollution assessment of heavy metals in river sediments from lake Taihu basin [J]. Environmental Science, 2019, 40 (5): 2202–2210 (in Chinese).

    [31] Ding J H, Yang Y H, Deng F. Resource potential and metallogenic prognosis of antimony deposits in China [J].Geology in China, 2013, 40 (3): 846–858 (in Chinese).

    [32] Bai J K, Wang J L, Li C L, et al. Study on soil element background values of the Hoh Xil area in north Tibet [J]. Environmental Science, 2014, 35 (4): 1498–1501 (in Chinese).

    [33] Wang X S, Qin Y. Environmental risk and sources of heavy metals in Xuzhou urban topsoil [J]. Geochimica, 2006, 35 (1): 88–94 (in Chinese).

    [34] Wang X D, Cheng G W, Zhong X H, et al. Trace elements in sub-alpine forest soils on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, China [J]. Environmental Geology, 2009, 58 (3): 635–643.

    [35] Sun J W, Hu G R, Yu R L, et al. Tracing sources of heavy metals in the soil profiles of drylands by multivariate statistical analysis and lead isotope [J]. Environmental Science, 2016, 37 (6): 2304–2312 (in Chinese).

This Article


CN: 11-1895/X

Vol 41, No. 02, Pages 886-894

February 2020


Article Outline



  • 1 Materials and methods
  • 2 Results and discussions
  • 3 Conclusions
  • References