The legacy of past manuring practices on soil contamination in remote rural areas

Donald A. Davidson, Clare A. Wilson, Andrew A. Meharg, Clare Deacon, Kevin John Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)


This paper demonstrates that there can be a legacy of contamination on former arable land in remote rural areas as a result of past manuring practices. In the first part of the study four farms abandoned in the late 19th to mid-20th century were investigated with samples collected from residual material in domestic hearths, the midden heaps, kailyards (walled garden for vegetables), infields (intensively managed arable land) and outfields (less intensively managed land for cropping or grazing). Consistent sequences in concentration values were found for such elements as Pb, Zn, Cu and P in the order hearth > midden > kailyard > infield > outfield. Such patterns can in part be explained in terms of atmospheric deposition on peat and turf which were subsequently burnt in hearths to result in enhanced elemental concentrations. The ash then was deposited in midden heaps and subsequently on kailyards or infields. In the second part, microanalytical results from St. Kilda are discussed. Enhanced loadings of Ph and Zn were found in the old arable land. The highest levels of Zn were found in small fragments of carbonised and humified material and bone fragments; in contrast Pb tended to be more uniformly distributed. Seabird waste was extensively applied to the arable land and some of the Zn may have accumulated in the soil by this pathway. The retention of Zn in bone is likely to have been very minor given the rarity of bone fragments as evident in thin sections (0.3%); this compares with 6.8% for black carbonised particles which are likely to provide the main storage sites for Zn. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-83
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironment International
Issue number1
Early online date8 Aug 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


  • soil contamination
  • manuring of arable land
  • black carbornsed particles
  • soil micromorphology
  • isotopic evidence
  • spectroscopy
  • accumulation
  • bones
  • lead


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