Toxics. 2022 Jul 3;10(7):368. doi: 10.3390/toxics10070368.
Due to increased levels of human activity, various pollutants are frequently detected on the Tibetan Plateau, where the environment is extremely fragile and sensitive. Therefore, this study investigated the sources, pollution, and ecological risks of soil potentially toxic elements (PTEs) in different landscape areas within the Qaidam Basin in the northeastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The contents of seven PTEs (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn, As, Cr, and Ni) in 32 topsoil samples (0-2 cm) were analyzed in different regions of the Qaidam Basin. The concentrations of As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn were 10.4-29.9 mg/kg, 0.08-4.45 mg/kg, 19-66 mg/kg, 8.2-40 mg/kg, 11.7-30.8 mg/kg, 11.1-31.2 mg/kg, and 32-213 mg/kg, respectively. The correlation between Pb and Cd in unpopulated areas was 0.896 (p < 0.01). The correlations among Pb, Cd, and Zn in agricultural areas, among As, Cd, Cr, and Zn in saline lake areas, and among As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn in residential areas were all greater than 0.65 (p < 0.05). The principal component analysis results showed that Pb and Cd in unpopulated areas, Pb, Cd, and Zn in agricultural areas, As, Cd, Cr, Zn, and Pb in saline lake areas, and As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn in residential areas were affected by human activities (significant factor >0.70). Based on the geological accumulation index and single-factor pollution index results, the maximum Cd values were found to be 4.93 and 45.88, respectively; Cd was thus the most serious PTE pollutant. The comprehensive pollution index of Nemero showed that moderately and severely polluted areas accounted for 18.89% and 18.46% of the total area, respectively. The results of the potential risk index showed that very strong and strong ecological risk points together accounted for 18.8% of the total points. The spatial variations in PTE pollution and the potential ecological risk index had similar patterns; both increased from the unpopulated areas in the northeastern Qaidam Basin to Golmud city in the south-western Qaidam Basin. These results indicate that human activities negatively impacted the soil ecological environment in the Qaidam Basin during the rapid development of the economy and urbanization and that these negative impacts tended to spread to unpopulated areas. Therefore, it is necessary to emphasize the significant impacts of human activities on environmental quality and formulate preventive measures to reduce PTE pollution in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.