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Geostatistical Simulation for the Assessment of Regional Soil Pollution

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Regional scale inventories of heavy metal concentrations in soil increasingly are being done to evaluate their global patterns of variation. Sometimes these global pattern evaluations reveal information that is not identified by more detailed studies. Geostatistical methods, such as stochastic simulation, have not yet been used routinely for this purpose in spite of their potential. To investigate such a use of geostatistical methods, we analyzed a data set of 14,674 copper and 12,441 cadmium observations in the topsoil of Flanders, Belgium, covering 13,522 km2. Outliers were identified and removed, and the distributions were spatially declustered. Copper was analyzed using sequential Gaussian simulation, whereas for cadmium we used sequential indicator simulation because of the large proportion (43%) of censored data. We complemented maps of the estimated values with maps of the probability of exceeding a critical sanitation threshold for agricultural land use. These sets of maps allowed the identification of regional patterns of increased metal concentrations and provided insight into their potential causes. Mostly areas with known industrial activities (such as lead and zinc smelters) could be delineated, but the effects of shells fired during the First World War were also identified.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Soil Management, Ghent University, Coupure 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

Publication date: 2010-04-01

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