In this study, rates of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead and zinc contents in agricultural soils from Eghlid County, south of Iran, were determined to assess the soil pollution and potential ecological risk index (PERI) and also spatial distribution of such elements.
A total of 100 topsoil specimens were collected from 100 sampling stations. In the laboratory, after acid digestion the element contents in soil samples were determined using ICP-OES. Then, the soil contamination and also ecological risk of the soil were assessed using various indices especially Igeo, PI, IPI, PLI and PERI. Also, the spatial distribution maps of the studied elements in soil specimens were made using the kriging interpolation technique by ArcGIS software (10.4).
Based on the results, the mean contents (mg/kg) of the elements in specimens were 1.85, 2.80, 19.04, 19.35, 7.17 and 38.77 for As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn, respectively. Arsenic and Cu contents were comparable to background values, while Cd contents were higher than their corresponding background values. The results of principal component analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) revealed that Cd had anthropogenic sources; while, other elements originated from natural sources. Pollution index (PI) values of As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn varied in the range of 0.45-1.49, 0.52-32.09, 0.096-0.33, 0.36-1.35, 0.18-0.32 and 0.23-1.59, with mean values of 0.92, 12.17, 0.21, 0.68, 0.21 and 0.96, respectively. The integrated pollution load index (PLI) values of the specimens with an average value of 0.84, indicated that 65% and 35% of soil samples were moderately and low contaminated, respectively. The mean value of PERI with 380.32 implied that the agricultural soils of the study area could be classified of high ecological risk. The spatial distribution of content of the elements showed that Cd had high spatial variability.
Although in the short run, the contents of the elements found in the agricultural soil samples may not be alarming for agricultural production and consequently human health, signals it can be observed especially for Cd in the long term due to the impact of anthropogenic activities that lead to the discharge of this element to the environment and can result in its accumulation in agricultural soils. In conclusion, as it is expected that the metal inputs increase in the future, it is recommended that plant analyses be included in the future studies for determining the impact of the amount of bioavailable metals.