Effects of heavy metal pollution on enzyme activities in railway cut slope soils

  • Xiaoyi Meng
  • Yingwei Ai
  • Ruirui Li
  • Wenjuan Zhang


Railway transportation is an important transportation mode. However, railway transportation causes heavy metal pollution in surrounding soils. Heavy metal pollution has a serious negative impact on the natural environment, including a decrease of enzyme activities in soil and degradation of sensitive ecosystems. Some studies investigated the heavy metal pollution at railway stations or certain transportation hubs. However, the pollution accumulated in artificial cut slope soil all along the rails is still questioned. The interest on non-point source pollution from railways is increasing in an effort to protect the soil quality along the line. In this study, we studied spatial distributions of heavy metals and five enzyme activities, i.e., urease (UA), saccharase (SAC), protease (PRO), catalase (CAT), and polyphenol oxidase (POA) in the soil, and the correlation among them beside three different railways in Sichuan Province, China, as well. Soil samples were respectively collected from 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 150 m away from the rails (depth of 0–8 cm). Results showed that Mn, Cd, Cu, and Zn were influenced by railway transportation in different degrees while Pb was not. Heavy metal pollution was due to the abrasion of the gravel bed as well as the tracks and freight transportation which caused more heavy metal pollution than passenger transportation. Enzymatic activities were significantly negatively correlated with heavy metals in soils, especially Zn and Cu. Finally, it is proposed that combined use of PRO and POA activities could be an indicator of the heavy metal pollution in cut slope soils. The protective measures aimed at heavy metal pollution caused by railway transportation in cut slope soils are urgent.


Enzymes Microbial activities Heavy metals Environmental monitoring Railway transportation 



National Key R & D Program of China (2017YFC0504903), Key Technology R & D Program of Sichuan Province, China (2016FZ0056), and CAS Key Technology Talent Program are acknowledged. The authors thank all the supporters of this project and the referees for their constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoyi Meng
    • 1
  • Yingwei Ai
    • 1
  • Ruirui Li
    • 1
  • Wenjuan Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Bio-resources and Eco-environment (Ministry of Education), College of Life ScienceSichuan UniversityChengduChina

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