Key Laboratory of Soil Environment and Pollution Remediation, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China; University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Soils in coastal areas of the land-sea interface are vulnerable to heavy metal (HM) accumulation and subsequently to human health risk. However, few studies have investigated the HM pollution and risk in soils along the coastal areas of the Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem (YSLME), in an international perspective. This study is the first comprehensive work in the YSLME encompassing 122 coastal locations along the Bohai Sea (BS), Yellow Sea of China (YSC), and Yellow Sea of South Korea (YSK). Soil HM pollution showed great spatial variations cross the regions and countries. Accumulations of As, Cu, Pb, and Zn in the YSK were significantly higher than those in the BS and YSC (p < 0.05). Whilst the elevated Cd, Hg, and Ni in soils were found in the BS and YSC compared to those in the YSK (p < 0.05). Meantime, the assessment of ecological risk posed by HMs indicated higher potential risk in the BS than other coastal areas. In specific, Cd and Hg posed a higher risk in the BS and YSC, while As showed relatively high risk in the YSK, indicating site-dependent accumulation of HMs in soils. Soil pH and organic matter were found to be important factors affecting the HM accumulation in the study areas. Industrial activities are the major driving factors influencing spatial distributions of HMs, and such activities exhibited different degrees of influence across the sampling sites. Altogether, the results of present study first identified the bilateral characteristics of soil HM pollution along the entire coasts of the YSLME in a comprehensive manner in several aspects: (1) sources, (2) hot spots, (3) priority chemicals of concern, and (4) site-specific potential risk of the soil HMs. Overall, this study provides references and backgrounds for future environmental management strategies and aids in developing a bilateral government policy towards coastal pollution management of HMs from an international scale and perspective.