Research Articles

Comparison of the water quality of the surface microlayer and subsurface water in the Guangzhou segment of the Pearl River, China

  • 1. Institute of Hydrobiology, Jinan University, Key Laboratory of Aquatic Eutrophication and Control of Harmful Algal Blooms of Guangdong Higher Education Institutes, Engineering Research Center of Tropical and Subtropical Aquatic Ecological Engineering, Ministry of Education, Guangzhou 510632, China;
    2. Shenzhen Academy of Environmental Sciences, Shenzhen 518002, Guangdong, China;
    3. Key Laboratory of South China Sea Fishery Resources Exploitation and Utilization of Ministry of Agriculture, Key Laboratory of Fishery Ecology and Environment of Guangdong Province, South China Sea Fisheries Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences, Guangzhou 510300, China;
    4. Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University Untied International College, Zhuhai 519000, Guangdong, China
Liu Qing, PhD Candidate, specialized in marine and estuary ecology. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-01-09

  Revised date: 2013-09-20

  Online published: 2014-03-28

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41173079; The Project of Department of Science and Technology, China, No.2012BAC07B05, No.2012BAD18B01; Jinan University Project, No.21612324


The water quality in the surface microlayer (SML) and subsurface water (SSW) in the Guangzhou segment of Pearl River, a eutrophic urban river section in China, were analyzed. The spatial and temporal dynamics of nutrient concentrations, heavy metals and bacteria were examined from two sampling sites in monthly samples throughout 2010. The mean concentrations of total nitrogen, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite were higher than 7.0 mg/L, 3.1 mg/L, 1.1 mg/L and 0.3 mg/L, while total phosphorus and orthophosphate were 0.5 mg/L and 0.1 mg/L, respectively. These results indicated that the water quality was rich in minerals and eutrophic. The mean concentrations of Mn and Fe were higher than 0.013 mg/L; and Ni, Cr and Pb were higher than 0.001 mg/L. The mean concentrations were in the order of Mn >Fe > Ni > Pb > Cr. The concentrations of heavy metals in the Guangzhou segment were lower than the limit of the surface water quality standards in China and the World Health Organization (WHO), but higher than the median values in the world’s freshwater. The density of bacteria ranged from 3.30×105 to 5.23×106 cells/mL, and the amount of cultivable heterotrophic bacteria ranged from 1.30×103 to 1.89×106 cfu/mL. Fecal coliform levels were beyond the V class of China water quality standard. The SML was enriched in nutrients, heavy metals and bacteria, with the maximum enrichment factor of 3.84 for nutrients, 8.00 for heavy metals, and 3.04 for bacteria, suggesting that the water quality of the SML of the Guangzhou segment of the Pearl River was more serious than in the SSW.

Cite this article

LIU Qing, HU Xiaojuan, JIANG Jiangluan, ZHANG Junyi, WU Zhihui, YANG Yufeng . Comparison of the water quality of the surface microlayer and subsurface water in the Guangzhou segment of the Pearl River, China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2014 , 24(3) : 475 -491 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-014-1101-7


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