Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp 1358–1372 | Cite as

Tracing environmental lead sources on the Ao mountain of China using lead isotopic composition and biomonitoring

  • Zhong-xiang Xiang
  • Hai-jian Bing
  • Yan-hong Wu
  • Jun Zhou
  • Rui Li
  • Xiao-li He


Atmospheric lead (Pb) and other trace metals can transport over long distance and deposit on remote alpine ecosystems. In this work, the soil profiles, litter and dominant mosses along a large altitude were collected on Ao Mountain, Central China, to obtain the spatial distributions of Pb in these materials, decipher the possible factors controlling the distribution, and quantitatively distinguish the natural versus anthropogenic sources of Pb through the Pb isotopic tracing and biomonitoring. The results show that soil Pb concentrations (mg/kg) decreased significantly with depth, and they were markedly higher in the O (42.6 ± 2.7) and A (36.4 ± 2.2) horizons than in the litter (7.20 ± 1.9) and mosses (28.0 ± 3.9). The Pb enrichment in the surface soils (O and A horizons), litter and mosses existed in the relatively high altitudes, which was attributed to the influences from atmospheric wet deposition, plants, soil physicochemical properties and human activity. The Pb isotopic ratios identified the Pb sources as originating mainly from Chinese coal combustion, mining and smelting. Atmospheric Pb from southeastern, southwestern and northwestern regions could be deposited in the alpine ecosystem by long distance atmospheric transport. The anthropogenic Pb reached over 50% in the O and A horizons, and over 70% in the litter and mosses, which corresponded to the concentrations of 26.9, 17.7, 5.92 and 21.2 mg/kg, respectively. The results indicate that the mutual effects of climate and regional human activity could increase the Pb accumulation in remote alpine ecosystems.


Source identification Pb isotope Biomonitoring Mountain soils Qinling region 


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This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41402313), Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Youth Innovation Promotion Association, Chinese Academy of Sciences. We are grateful to the fellows from Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences for their assistance in the field sampling.

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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhong-xiang Xiang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hai-jian Bing
    • 1
  • Yan-hong Wu
    • 1
  • Jun Zhou
    • 1
  • Rui Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiao-li He
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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