, Volume 40, Issue 4, pp 417–424 | Cite as

Geostatistical Assessment of the Impact of World War I on the Spatial Occurrence of Soil Heavy Metals

  • Eef Meerschman
  • Liesbet Cockx
  • Mohammad Monirul Islam
  • Fun Meeuws
  • Marc Van Meirvenne


Previous research showed a regional Cu enrichment of 6 mg kg−1 in the top soil of the Ypres war zone (Belgium), caused by corrosion of WWI shell fragments. Further research was required since in addition to Cu, also As, Pb, and Zn were used during the manufacturing of ammunition. Therefore, an additional data collection was conducted in which the initial Cu data set was tripled to 731 data points and extended to eight heavy metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn) which permitted (1) to evaluate the environmental impact of the heavy metals at a regional scale and (2) to assess their regional spatial occurrence by performing an optimized geostatistical modeling. The results showed no pollution at a regional scale, but sometimes locally concentrations exceeded the soil sanitation threshold, especially for Cu, Pb, and Zn. The spatial patterns of Ni and Cr were related to variations in soil texture whereas the occurrences of Cu and Pb were clearly linked to WWI activities. This difference in spatial behavior was confirmed by an analysis of coregionalization.


Soil heavy metals World War I Geostatistics Spatial variability 



The authors thank OVAM for financing an additive sampling campaign and providing data on heavy metals in the topsoil of Flanders. Alain Coopman and Kurt Bouckenooghe (Soresma nv) are kindly thanked for performing the sampling campaign. We also thank Professor F. Tack for allowing us to use some additional heavy metal data and the reviewers for their interesting suggestions. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (FWO-Vlaanderen).


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eef Meerschman
    • 1
  • Liesbet Cockx
    • 1
  • Mohammad Monirul Islam
    • 1
  • Fun Meeuws
    • 1
  • Marc Van Meirvenne
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Group Soil Spatial Inventory Techniques, Department of Soil Management, Faculty of Bioscience EngineeringGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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