Geochemical variability of heavy metals in soil after land use conversions in Northeast China and its environmental applications
The long-term agricultural reclamation since the 1950s has resulted in significant land use change from natural landscape to cultivated land in the Sanjiang Plain of Northeast China, which has had important consequences for many soil physical, chemical and biological processes. To understand the impact of land use conversions on heavy metal geochemistry, soil samples were collected from natural wetland, natural forestland, paddy land and dry farmland in a case study area and analyzed for total concentrations and chemical fractions of six heavy metals. Results showed that the natural wetland reclamation for the paddy land has caused obvious losses of Cd, Cu and Zn from the soils. In addition, a significant decrease in the Zn concentration was found after the land conversion from natural forestland to dry farmland. Because all the analyzed heavy metals predominated in the stable residual fraction regardless of the land use type, the response of metal mobility to the land use conversions was generally weak. Consequently, soil erosion was identified as the major factor that enhances heavy metal losses in the cultivated lands, especially in the paddy land. The close link between heavy metal loss and the reduction of clay and organic matter contents after land reclamation suggested that the diffuse heavy metal pollution occurred mainly in small erosion events. Considering the continuous paddy land expansion, special attention should be paid to the bioaccumulation of Pb in the paddy rice. Overall, these findings can help to improve the sustainability and safety of intensive agricultural activities in Northeast China as well as other similar areas.