Comparison of the multifractal characteristics of heavy metals in soils within two areas of contrasting economic activities in China

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Industrial and agricultural activities can generate heavy metal pollution that can cause a number of negative environmental and health impacts. This means that evaluating heavy metal pollution and identifying the sources of these pollutants, especially in urban or developed areas, is an important first step in mitigating the effects of these contaminating but necessary economic activities. Here, we present the results of a heavy metal (Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd, As, and Hg) soil geochemical survey in Hefei city. We used a multifractal spectral technique to identify and compare the multifractality of heavy metal concentrations of soils within the industrial Daxing and agricultural Yicheng areas. This paper uses three multifractal parameters (Δα, Δf(α), and τ''(1)) to indicate the overall amount of multifractality within the soil geochemical data. The results show all of the elements barring Hg have larger Δα, Δf(α), and τ''(1) values in the Daxing area compared to the Yicheng area. The degree of multifractality suggests that the differing economic activities in Daxing and Yicheng generate very different heavy metal pollution loads. In addition, the industrial Daxing area contains significant Pb and Cd soil contamination, whereas Hg is the main heavy metal present in soils within the Yicheng area, indicating that differing clean-up procedures and approaches to remediating these polluted areas are needed. The results also indicate that multifractal modelling and the associated generation of multifractal parameters can be a useful approach in the evaluation of heavy metal pollution in soils. © Author(s) 2016.