Defining the geochemical baseline: A case of Hong Kong soils

H. B. Zhang, Y. M. Luo*, Ming Hung WONG, Q. G. Zhao, G. L. Zhang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


A geochemical baseline provides the means to distinguish between the pedogenic origin and the anthropogenic origin of the trace element in the environmental compartments. We collected 271 soil samples representative of different parent rocks and soil types from the whole territory of Hong Kong and analyzed the composition of clay mineralogy and the contents of 15 chemical elements (Fe, Cd, As, etc.) for these samples. The baseline was predicted with the method of the normalization procedure combined with the relative cumulative frequency curve. The result indicated that Fe was the best reference element for the normalization procedure among the five potential reference elements (Fe, Al, Sc, Ti, and Mn), followed by Sc and Ti. A poor correlation was found between Sc, Ti, and Cu. The predicted baseline was much lower than the A-value of the Dutch List used usually in screening the polluted soil of Hong Kong, implying that the extent of heavy metal pollution might have been underestimated with respect to local lands. We also applied the cluster analysis to distinguish the geochemical associations of the trace elements due to its importance to the baseline. Approximately three major associations including the Fe-Mn-oxides related, Al oxides or Al-bearing-clay-mineralogy related and sulfide- related associations were observed from the dendrogram.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-851
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Geochemical baseline
  • Normalization procedure
  • Soil
  • Trace element


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