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Heavy metal concentrations of natural soils in the Sydney basin

Tom Knowles and Peter Graham

Environmental & Earth Sciences Pty Ltd, Sydney, Australia. Email:


Heavy metal concentrations in natural soils are influenced by the land use and parent material (Lawrie et al, 1992). Previous studies outlining background or natural concentrations of heavy metals in soils are generally not in a form that allows ready comparison with Australian and NSW guidelines relating to contaminated land. Using Environmental & Earth Sciences database the natural concentrations of eight heavy metals (copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, chromium, nickel, arsenic and mercury) will be related to the soil type and parent material. This review will present results of selected soil sampling and analysis over the last 20 years. Soil sampling of natural surface and subsoil was undertaken on residential, parkland, commercial and industrial sites throughout Sydney in areas of different soil type, geomorphology and land use. Differences in heavy metal concentrations within soil type and parent material groupings will be documented.

This review aims to complement previous work and present the findings in a format that can be used by scientists working on contaminated land issues.

Key words

Trace metals, parent material, background concentrations, contaminated land


Lawrie, RA, Keneally JP, and Stevens ML (1992). Background trace elements in soils around Sydney. In ‘Fourth National Soils Conference – Soil Protection and Productivity. Adelaide, South Australia, 19-23 April 1992’.

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