Investigation of heavy metals concentration in surface sediments of Choghakhor wetland

Document Type : Research Paper



Inorganic contaminants, such as heavy metals enter into terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems from different paths such as erosion and weathering of rock, agricultural and industrial activities, automobile exhaust, sewage and atmospheric subsidence. These heavy metals because of their bioaccumulation potential, toxicity, ubiquitous, and resistance degradation, can be a serious threat to ecological systems and human health. According to Amin et al (2009), more than 90% of heavy metals loading in aquatic ecosystems found in sediments; so, the quality of sediments can be a good indicator of water pollution. In these ecosystems, sediments play an important role as a sink for organic and inorganic contaminants (heavy metals) and provide a history of human-origin emission of pollutants and environmental changes.
To address the sediment contamination by heavy metals, different approaches such as hazard quotients; crop uptake and transformation; concentrations of weakly extractable metal and total heavy metal concentration can be used.
sediment contamination is often assessed by comparing heavy metal concentrations with the relevant environmental references or by quantifying an accumulation factor in comparison to the related background concentrations. Up to now, numerous different indices such as the index of geoaccumulation (Igeo), the enrichment factor, the pollution index (PI) and the integrated pollution index (IPI), the individual element polluted index, the contamination factor and degree of contamination, the contamination factor (CF), the pollution load index (PLI) and the total contamination index (Zs) has introduced to estimate the degree of heavy metal contamination.
Up to now, numerous studies have documented the distribution, origin and extent of heavy metals contamination in sediments of various wetlands. However, wetland sediment contamination has sparsely been investigated in Iran in general and no information is available for the Choghakhor wetland. Choghakhor wetland is one of the most important wetland for waterfowl in Iran which has been exposed to different non-point pollution sources and different contaminants such as heavy metals due to surrounding agricultural and recreational activities and discharge of domestic effluents without treatment. Therefore, the aim of this study was to quantify the concentrations of Ni, Zn, Cu and Fe in surface sediments of Choghakhor wetland. Also assessment of heavy metals contamination using different contamination indices was another purpose of this study.

Materials & Methods

A total of 52 surface sediment samples were collected randomly from different parts of the Choghakhor wetland; then the samples were placed in clean plastic bags and were transferred to the laboratory for further analysis. 1 gram of sieved sediment sample was digested by using the combination of the three acids: HF, HNO3 and HClO4 whit the ratio of 3:5:7. After cooling the samples, 2 ml of boric acid 7% was added to remove the fluoride residual and with distilled water was reached to volume of 25 cc. The concentration of metals in sediments was measured by flame atomic absorption. For quality control and assurance, standard reference materials and blank samples were used.
Various types of direct (Earth Chemical) and indirect methods (statistical) are commonly used to calculate the contamination of heavy metals in the environment. However, statistical methods are more common than chemical methods because the earth is not alone useful for determining the concentration of background samples, also statistical methods have lower lab work and cost. In this study, a statistical method introduced by Ismailia et al (2014) was used for calculating of the background concentrations. Contamination assessment was carried out using several different indices including Enrichment factor (EF), Geo-accumulation index (Igeo), Contamination factor (CF) and pollution load index (PLI).
Sediment quality assessment guidelines (SQGs) can be very useful in determining the amount of sediment pollution compared with the corresponding guides. In this paper, two sets of guidelines including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration USA (NOAA) and the Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines Canada (ISQG) were used. These guidelines express the quality level and degree of contamination of sediments which may have an adverse effect on aquatic organisms. The Correlation and PCA analysis were used to determine the source of heavy metals in sediment samples. Inverse distance weighting method was used for mapping of heavy metals distribution in surface sediments of wetland.
Discussion of Results
The mean total concentrations of Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni and Zn in surface sediments in the whole study area were 15.75, 6076.86, 297.74, 30.07 and 29.87 mg/kg, respectively. Average metal concentrations followed the order Fe> Mn> Ni> Zn> Cu. With the exception of Fe, the concentrations of other heavy metals in the surface sediments of Choghakhor wetland were all lower than the background values.
Mean EF values of heavy metals followed the order: Ni> Zn> Cu> Mn. Average EF values for Ni, Cu, Zn and Mn were 1.34, 2.47, 1.75 and 2.54 respectively suggesting a minor enrichment of these metals. Considering background values, enrichment of heavy metals in this study showed that heavy metals concentrations in sediment samples were mostly controlled by natural and partly anthropogenic sources. Average Igeo values for Ni, Cu, Zn, Mn and Fe were 0.014, 0.032, 0.018, 0.005 and 0.0001 respectively indicating no pollution in wetland sediment samples. However, Igeo is not readily comparable to the other indices of metal contamination due to the nature of the Igeo calculation, which involves a log function, and a background multiplication of 1.5. Mean CF values for Ni, Cu, Zn, Mn and Fe were 0.48, 0.65, 0.59, 0.68 and 0.48 respectively indicating low contamination of heavy metals in wetland sediment samples.
Results of correlation analysis showed that the heavy metals concentrations of sediment samples were significantly correlated with each other at level %1. From this, it could be said that their source was almost the same and which may be derived from the natural sources. Considering PCA analysis, all the heavy metals were well represented by the first principal component, which accounted for over 64.79% of the total variance. The results of PCA agreed well with that of the correlation analysis. As mentioned before, the concentrations of most heavy metals were lower than the background values. Therefore, it could be said that the distribution of heavy metals in sediment samples was mainly controlled by natural sources.
In this study, we analyzed the spatial distributions of heavy metals in the whole area of Choghakhor wetland. The spatial distribution patterns of most of heavy metals, especially Cu, Fe and Ni were generally similar, with increasing concentrations from the north of the wetland to the south nearby villages and residential areas. In other words, the high concentrations or hotspots for the three heavy metals mainly existed in southern parts of the area under study. In addition, the spatial distribution of Mn and Zn concentrations showed decreasing trends from the west of the area to the east.
Therefore, from the above discussion can be concluded that although entire wetland is non-polluted and the heavy metals concentrations in sediment were mostly controlled by geomorphological sources but high concentrations of heavy metals in specific areas or hot spots could be related to human activities especially agricultural activity. In particular, these hot spots are located in environmental guard station, tourist area and residential areas especially villages of Kheder Abad, Saki Abad, Seyf Abad and Khani Abad in the vicinity of wetland.
Results indicated that the average concentrations of heavy metals were all lower than background values. According to the results of Contamination Factor, Geoaccumulation Index and Enrichment Factor, considerable and intense contamination of heavy metals in sediments of study area was not observed. Based on the sediments quality guidelines, the concentration of Ni at whole study area has frequently adverse biological effect on aquatic organisms. Although, the results of the PCA revealed that all heavy metals were mainly originated from natural sources, their spatial distribution maps showed that there were several hotspots located in different parts of the area under study.


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