Research Group Soil Spatial Inventory Techniques, Department of Environment, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium; Laboratory of Environmental and Urban Ecology, Department of Bioscience Engineering, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium. Electronic address: [Email]
Soil magnetic measurements are used increasingly to estimate the impact of airborne, combustion-related particulate matter (PM) pollution in dense measurement grids. Although many studies have proven the potential of topsoil magnetic measurements in environmental monitoring, their application is not straightforward when factors such as parent material or land use have to be accounted for. Often, the influence of land use on the soil magnetic signal is circumvented by targeting forest soils, where deposited magnetic particles are best preserved in the topsoil. However, when large forests are absent, e.g. in densely populated areas or environments with more heterogeneous land use, this approach often impedes reliable and comprehensive spatial sampling. We evaluated if topsoil magnetic pollution mapping across different land use classes, against a homogeneous geological environment of sandy soils, could help increase the spatial reliability of results in regional scale surveys. Although detailed magnetic property analysis and evaluation of trace metal concentrations in soils on arable land, forest and pasture showed the impact of atmospheric pollution, topsoil susceptibility measurements did not allow delineating the magnetic footprint of PM pollution. Land use strongly influenced the distribution of magnetic particles through soil, and the evaluation of anomalous magnetic topsoil enhancement required the integration of downhole susceptibility soundings. We conclude that topsoil susceptibility mapping remains a useful tool to evaluate PM pollution impact, yet its application potential across land use classes is limited.