Effects of Heavy Metal Pollution

Some heavy metals tend to accumulate in the soil, due to their high affinity both with soil organic matter and with mineral particles. This accumulation eventually exceeds the toxicity threshold tolerable by soil microorganisms and soil fauna - the major drivers of the decomposition process. The direct effect of heavy metal accumulation on plant uptake depends on soil properties - soils with neutral pH and high clay content can immobilize large amounts of heavy metals, while the chemical composition of leaves is not significantly affected by the heavy metals in the soil. However, plants growing on these soils are only temporarily protected against heavy metals until the soil retention potential for these metals is reached. In acidic soils, the low pH increases the solubility of most heavy metals leading to the uptake of heavy metals by vegetation, and to their accumulation in the plant tissues (e.g., leaves). Because all heavy metals are potentially toxic, there is some concern about the possible increase in heavy metal content in the plant leaves, and its consequent deleterious effects on ecosystem function.

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