Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 34, pp 34519–34530 | Cite as

Transport of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in a highly vulnerable karst underground river system of southwest China

  • Jiacheng Lan
  • Yuchuan SunEmail author
  • Daoxian Yuan
Research Article


The concentration and fluxes of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were investigated in a karst underground river system in southwest China. Groundwater, particles, and sediments from underground river, topsoil, and surface water were monitored, allowing establishment of a conceptual model of PAH transport at the watershed scale. The results showed that PAHs could be transported from the surface to the subsurface through two migration pathways, which were slow-flowing water in the karst fissure and fast-flowing water in conduits. During rainfall events, increasing PAH levels (concentrations and fluxes) at the underground river exit indicated that hydrodynamic force could facilitate PAH transport. The PAHs in water were dominated by dissolved PAHs, accounting for 58.7% of total, especially in the freely dissolved phase, in which SPM-associated PAHs accounted for 41.3% of the total PAHs. Low molecular weight PAHs dominated transport and were mainly transported in dissolved form, whereas high molecular weight PAHs were dominated by SPM-associated transport during the rainfall events. A significantly positive correlation was observed between two-ring and three-ring freely dissolved PAHs and dissolved organic carbon (p < 0.01), respectively. Moreover, PAHs with four to five rings were relatively more abundant in the dissolved organic matter (DOM) associated phase than in the freely dissolved phase, suggesting a major role of DOM in their transport during rainfall events. The trend of PAH fluxes suggested that particle-facilitated transport was another dominant cause of PAH mobilization.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Particle-facilitated transport DOM-facilitated transport Conceptual model Karst underground river system Rainfall events 



The authors give thanks to State Engineering Technology Institute for Karst Desertification control, Guizhou, China and Chongqing Key Laboratory of Karst Environment, Chongqing, China. The authors also give thanks to all the schoolmasters and co-workers. The authors would like to thank LetPub ( for providing linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

Funding information

This study was financially supported by Chinese Nation Nature Fund (No. 41761091, No. 41601584), the National Key Research and Development Project of China (No. 2016YFC0502603), Guizhou Province Science and Technology Fund (No. Qiankehe Foundation [2017]1417, Qiankehe J [2015]2111), Geological Survey Project of Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China (DD20160305), domestic first-class discipline construction project in Guizhou (Geography of Guizhou Normal University, No. Qiankehe Research Foundation [2017] 85), and Guizhou Normal University Doctoral Research Fund (No. 2015).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Karst Science/State Engineering Technology Institute for Karst Desertification ControlGuizhou Normal UniversityGuiyangChina
  2. 2.Chongqing Key Laboratory of Karst Environment, School of Geographical ScienceSouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Karst Environment and Rock Desertification RehabilitationChongqingChina
  4. 4.Institute of Karst Geology, CAGS, Karst Dynamics LaboratoryMLRGuilinChina

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