Multivariate statistical study of heavy metal enrichment in sediments of the Pearl River Estuary

W. X. Liu, Xiangdong Li, Z. G. Shen, D. C. Wang, Wing Hong Onyx Wai, Yok Sheung Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

386 Citations (Scopus)


The concentrations and chemical partitioning of heavy metals in the sediment cores of the Pearl River Estuary were studied. Based on Pearson correlation coefficients and principal component analysis results, Al was selected as the concentration normalizer for Pb, while Fe was used as the normalizing element for Co, Cu, Ni and Zn. In each profile, sections with metal concentrations exceeding the upper 95% prediction interval of the linear regression model were regarded as metal enrichment layers. The heavy metal accumulation mainly occurred at sites in the western shallow water areas and east channel, which reflected the hydraulic conditions and influence from riparian anthropogenic activities. Heavy metals in the enrichment sections were evaluated by a sequential extraction method for possible chemical forms in sediments. Since the residual, Fe/Mn oxides and organic/sulfide fractions were dominant geochemical phases in the enriched sections, the bioavailability of heavy metals in sediments was generally low. The206Pb/207Pb ratios in the metal-enriched sediment sections also revealed the influence of anthropogenic sources. The spatial distribution of cumulative heavy metals in the sediments suggested that the Zn and Cu mainly originated from point sources, while the Pb probably came from non-point sources in the estuary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003


  • Enrichment
  • Estuarine sediments
  • Heavy metals
  • Normalization
  • The Pearl River Estuary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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