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Transfer and accumulation of lead, zinc, cadmium and copper in plants growing in abandoned mining-district area


HK Chakroun
F Souissi
JL Bouchardon
R Souissi
J Moutte
O Faure
E Remon
S Abdeljaoued

Abstract

The analysis of the Jebel Hallouf-Sidi Bouaouane mining-district soil has shown that the surface horizons are strongly contaminated by heavy metals, especially during floods or in lee-side areas. The contents of metallic-trace elements (MTE), in the soil and two cultivated plant species, have been determined by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES). The results show that the concentration of metals in the soil are up to 39 g. kg-1, 6.3 g. kg-1, 56 mg. kg-1 and 131 mg. kg-1, for lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), cadmium (Cd) and copper (Cu), respectively. The chemical analysis of plants: broad beans [Vicia faba (L.)] and barley [Hordeum vulgare (L.)], sampled inside the mining district, show that the roots and the upper part (leaves and stem) are enriched for Pb (up to 508 and 220 mg.kg-1, respectively), Cd (up to 8 and 5 mg.kg-1, respectively), and Zn (up to 491 and 468 mg.kg-1, respectively) when compared with similar species collected far from the contaminated site (up to 9.6 and 0.8 mg.kg-1 for Pb, up to 0.04 and 0.04 mg.kg-1 for Cd, up to 44 and 15 mg.kg-1 for Zn, respectively). Statistically, the concentration of MTE in the soils and plants of the mining area is significantly different from the concentrations of the same elements in the soils and plants of the control ones (p < 0.01). This is expressed by a strong Enrichment Coefficient (EC), which is given by the ratio between the concentration of the metal in the contaminated plant and the concentration of the same element in the similar control one. The results (up to 405, 342 and 32, respectively), indicate that the contamination has reached the first link of the food chain. However, the calculation of the translocation factor (TF), deduced from the ratio between the concentration of the metal in the outer part of the plant and the concentration of the same element in the roots, shows that, the broad beans accumulates metals in the roots (TF < 1); whereas for barley, metals are fairly distributed between the roots and the outer part (TF ≈ 1). These results suggest that the cultivated areas inside the mining district constitute a serious source of contamination of the food chain. Therefore, actions have to be taken in order to remedy this problem.

Key words: MTE, contamination, transfer, soil, plant.