Geochemical distribution, fractionation, and sources of heavy metals in dammed-river sediments: the Longjiang River, Southern China

  • Xiaolong Lan
  • Zengping Ning
  • Yizhang Liu
  • Qingxiang Xiao
  • Haiyan Chen
  • Enzong Xiao
  • Tangfu XiaoEmail author
Original Article


In the present study, six sediment cores were collected from six river-dammed reservoirs to reveal the geochemical distribution of heavy metals (As, Cd, Pb, Sb, and Zn) in the Longjiang River, South China, which is highly impacted by nonferrous metal mining and smelting activities. The sediments were geochemically characterized, combining geochemical analysis, sequential extractions, and 210Pb chronology. The results indicated that the river sediments were severely polluted by heavy metals in the order of Cd > Zn ≈ Pb ≈ Sb > As. These heavy metals generally exhibited relatively low enrichment in the upstream sediments because of the limited anthropogenic impact, but their abundances drastically increased in the midstream sediments due to local smelting activities. In downstream sediments, the heavy metal concentrations (except for Cd) decreased, owing to the effect of dam interception and detrital inputs. Cadmium levels tended to increase in downstream sediments, which were attributed to the intensive discharge of Cd during the pollution event in 2012. The sedimentary records were traced back to 1985, and a significant decrease of heavy metal enrichments could be found after the year 2000, suggesting the enhancement of environmental management in this period. The statistical results indicated that local metal smelting and mining activities were the main anthropogenic contributors for the enrichment of heavy metals in the dammed-river sediments. High enrichment factor and non-residual fractions of heavy metals in local sediments may pose a direct threat to aquatic organisms. Cd presents significant danger because of its extreme enrichment and high labile fractions.


Heavy metals Fractionation 210Pb dating Smelting and mining activities Sediment cores The Longjiang River 



This research was funded the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41473124, 41673138). The authors thank Yanlong Zhao from Water Resources Protection Bureau of Pearl River for the assistance of field sampling. We also thank Jake Carpenter from UCLA, USA, for language editing.

Supplementary material

11631_2019_313_MOESM1_ESM.docx (3.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 3200 kb)


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Copyright information

© Science Press and Institute of Geochemistry, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaolong Lan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Zengping Ning
    • 1
  • Yizhang Liu
    • 1
  • Qingxiang Xiao
    • 1
    • 3
  • Haiyan Chen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Enzong Xiao
    • 2
  • Tangfu Xiao
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Water Quality and Conservation of the Pearl River Delta, Ministry of Education, School of Environmental Science and EngineeringGuangzhou UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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