Background levels of trace and ultra-trace elements in soils of Japan

Shin Ichi Yamasaki, Takeda Akira, Masami Nanzyo, Ichiro Taniyama, Makoto Nakai

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58 Citations (Scopus)


Five hundred and fourteen soil samples collected from 78 sites in Japan were analyzed for their contents of trace and ultra-trace elements. We estimated the background levels (natural abundance) of 57 elements in soils. The concentration ranges were so wide that the ratios of the highest values to the lowest values were more than 100 for all the elements, with the exception of Be, Ga, Mo, Ag, In, Sn, and Ba. While the concentrations of the first transition elements (21Sc to 30Zn in atomic numbers) were higher than the concentration of the other elements, those of lighter (3Li and 4Be) and heavier elements tended to decrease, with an increase or decrease of atomic numbers, with the apparent exception of Pb, Th, and U. Concentrations of elements with even atomic numbers were, in most of the cases, higher than the concentrations of both adjacent elements with odd atomic numbers. Frequency distribution of most of the elements was strongly positively skewed. Markedly positive correlation coefficients (r>0.9) were observed among the elements within the same group in the Periodic Table in many combinations. The dendrogram obtained by cluster analysis showed that the occurrence and distribution of the elements in soils were mostly controlled by the chemical properties of each element, rather than by the nature and properties of individual soil samples. The total contents of the elements in soils were strongly dependent on the chemical composition of the parent rocks from which respective soils were derived.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-765
Number of pages11
JournalSoil Science and Plant Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Dec
Externally publishedYes


  • Background level
  • Trace and ultra-trace elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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