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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Reviews and Analyses

Trace Metal Dynamics in Floodplain Soils of the River Elbe: A Review


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 38 No. 4, p. 1349-1362
    Received: June 30, 2008

    * Corresponding author(s): christiane.schulz@ufz.de
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  1. Christiane Schulz-Zunkel *a and
  2. Frank Kruegerb
  1. a Dep. of Conservation Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
    b ELANA–soil, water, monitoring, Dorfstraße 55, 39615 Falkenberg, Germany and LEUPHANA Univ. Lueneburg, Faculty of Environment and Engineering, Herbert-Meyer-Straße 7, 29556 Suderburg, Germany


This paper reviews trace metal dynamics in floodplain soils using the Elbe floodplains in Germany as an example of extraordinary importance because of the pollution level of its sediments and soils. Trace metal dynamics are determined by processes of retention and release, which are influenced by a number of soil properties including pH value, redox potential, organic matter, type and amount of clay minerals, iron-, manganese- and aluminum-oxides. Today floodplains act as important sinks for contaminants but under changing hydraulic and geochemical conditions they may also act as sources for pollutants. In floodplains such changes may be extremes in flooding or dry periods that particularly lead to altered redox potentials and that in turn influence the pH value, the mineralization of organic matter as well as the charge of the pedogenic oxides. Such reactions may affect the bioavailability of trace metals in soils and it can be clearly seen that the bioavailability of metals is an important factor for estimating trace metal remobilization in floodplain soils. However as bioavailability is not a constant factor, there is still a lack of quantification of metal mobilization particularly on the basis of changing geochemical conditions. Moreover, mobile amounts of metals in the soil solution do not indicate to which extent remobilized metals will be transported to water bodies or plants and therefore potentially have toxicological effects. Consequently, floodplain areas still need to be taken into consideration when studying the role and behavior of sediments and soils for transporting pollutants within river systems, particularly concerning the Water Framework Directive.

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