Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2010, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (2): 283-294.doi: 10.1007/s11442-010-0283-x

• Ecology and Environment • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Identification of the sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons based on molecular and isotopic characterization from the Yangtze estuarine and nearby coastal areas

OU Dongni1, LIU Min1, CHENG Shubo1, HOU Lijun2, XU Shiyuan1, WANG Lili1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science of the Ministry of Education, School of Resources and Environment Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 20006;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Received:2009-03-01 Revised:2009-07-02 Online:2010-04-15 Published:2010-04-15
  • About author:Ou Dongni (1979?), PhD, specialized in coastal biogeochemistry. E-mail:
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.40801201; No.40730526; Special grade of the financial support from China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, No.200902224; China Postdoctoral Science Foundation, No.20080440605; Shanghai Postdoctoral Foundation, No.07R214120


Samples of suspended particulate matters (SPMs), surface sediment and road dust were collected from the Yangtze estuarine and nearby coastal areas, coastal rivers, and central Shanghai. The samples were analyzed for the presence of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the USEPA priority-controlled list by GC-MS. The compound-specific stable carbon isotopes of the individual PAHs were also analyzed by GC-C-IRMS. The sources of PAHs in the SPMs and surface sediments in the Yangtze estuarine and nearby coastal areas were then identified using multiple source identification techniques that integrated molecular mass indices with organic compound-specific stable isotopes. The results revealed that 3-ring and 4-ring PAH compounds were dominant in the SPMs and surface sediments, which are similar to the PAH compounds found in samples from the Wusong sewage discharge outlet, Shidongkou sewage disposal plant, Huangpu River, coastal rivers and central Shanghai. Principal component analysis (PCA) integrated with molecular mass indices indicated that gasoline, diesel, coal and wood combustion and petroleum-derived residues were the main sources of PAHs in the Yangtze Estuary. The use of PAH compound- specific stable isotopes also enabled identification of the PAHs input pathways. PAHs derived from wood and coal combustion and petroleum-derived residues were input into the Yangtze Estuary and nearby coastal areas by coastal rivers, sewage discharge outlets during the dry season and urban storm water runoff during the flood season. PAHs derived from vehicle emissions primarily accumulated in road dust from urban traffic lines and the commercial district and then entered the coastal area via the northwest prevailing winds in the dry season and storm water runoff during flood season.

Key words: PAHs, source identification, compound-specific stable isotope, molecular mass index, the Yangtze Estuary 284 Journal of Geographical Sciences