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Fate of 210Pbex fallout in soil under forest and scrub of the central Spanish Pre-Pyrenees

AuthorsGaspar, L.; Webster, R.; Navas, Alfonso
Issue DateMay-2017
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
CitationEuropean Journal of Soil Science 68(3): 259-269 (2017)
AbstractThe characteristics and distribution of unsupported radioactive lead-210 (Pb) in soil and the relations between the radionuclide and soil properties determine its fate within the environment. We have explored the distribution of Pb in stony soil profiles near the edge of the Ebro basin in northern Spain, the role played by vegetation in that distribution, and the relation between the radionuclide and organic carbon. We describe in detail the profiles of Pb at 23 sites, 10 under forest and 13 under scrub, which were sampled at 2-cm intervals to a maximum depth of 14 cm. The theoretical distribution of Pb follows an exponential decline with depth in undisturbed soil, assuming minimal surface slope and no evidence of erosion or deposition processes. Comparable distribution patterns of Pb and organic C became evident from the analyses. There were significant correlations between the activity of Pb and organic C under both forest and scrub, but the strongest were in the surface layers of soil under forest. More than 80% of the total activity of Pb was adsorbed in the upper 6 cm, with an exponential decline with increasing depth. The decline was modelled with exponential functions fitted by non-linear least-squares regression to predict the depth distributions of Pb and organic C in forest and scrub soils separately. The results confirm the viability of the use of Pb in stony soil as an indicator of soil redistribution and show the significant effect of vegetative cover. These results provide useful information about sampling design for future research if the radionuclide Pb is used for assessing soil redistribution in similar Mediterranean environments. Highlights: Characterizing the vertical distribution of Pb requires high resolution sampling (2 cm). In uncultivated soil of the Pre-Pyrenees the fallout, Pb, is retained in the uppermost 14 cm. The distribution of Pb matches that of the organic matter down the profile. Vegetation affects the surface activity of Pb in the soil, being greater under forest than under scrub.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/ejss.12427
issn: 1365-2389
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