The upper layer of forest soils (0-20 cm depth) were collected from urban, suburban, and rural areas in the Pearl River Delta of Southern China to estimate the distribution and the possible sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Total concentrations of PAHs in the forest soils decreased significantly along the urban-suburban-rural gradient, indicating the influence of anthropogenic emissions on the PAH distribution in forest soils. High and low molecular weight PAHs dominated in the urban and rural forest soils, respectively, implying the difference in emission sources between the areas. The values of PAH isomeric diagnostic ratios indicated that forest soil PAHs were mainly originated from traffic emissions, mixed sources and coal/wood combustion in the urban, suburban and rural areas, respectively. Principal component analysis revealed that traffic emissions, coal burning and residential biomass combustion were the three primary contributors to forest soil PAHs in the Pearl River Delta. Long range transportation of PAHs via atmosphere from urban area might also impact the PAHs distribution in the forest soils of rural area.
Emissions from industrial activities pose a serious threat to human health and impose the need for monitoring both inorganic and organic pollutants in industrial areas. We selected Masson pine (Pinus massoniana L.) as potential biomonitor and collected the current (C) and previous year (C+1) needles from three industrial sites dominated by petrochemical, ceramics manufacturing, and iron and steel smelting plants and one remote site to determine heavy metals (Cu, Cd, Pb, Zn, Cr, Ni and Co) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in unwashed and water-washed needles. Both unwashed and washed C+1 needles showed generally higher concentrations of heavy metals and PAHs than C needles, although the washed needles more clearly spotlighted the accumulation effect of PAHs over exposure time. Water-washing resulted in a significant decrease in needle PAH concentrations with more significant effects shown in C needles. By contrast, needle heavy metal concentrations were much less affected by washing. Although heavy metals and PAHs might differ in adsorption and uptake strategies, their higher concentrations in the needles at the industrial sites indicated conspicuous contamination due to industrial emissions there. The PAH distribution patterns in pine needles accorded with the real types of energy consumption in the study sites and were efficiently used for pinpointing local pollutant sources.
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