The fate of lead at abandoned and active shooting ranges in a boreal pine forest



Changes in leaching, availability, bioaccumulation, and vertical distribution of lead (Pb) in soil 20 years after the cessation of shooting activity were studied by comparing three pine forest sites in southern Finland: an active shooting range, an abandoned shooting range, and a noncontaminated control site. At both shooting ranges, shooting activity had lasted for 20 years, but it had taken place 20 years earlier at the abandoned range. Up to 4 kg m−2 of Pb pellets had accumulated in the soil at both shooting ranges, and extremely high Pb concentrations, reaching 50,000 mg kg−1, were detected in the organic soil layer. Elevated Pb concentrations were also found in leachate waters and in the biota. Concentrations of Pb in the top organic soil layer and in some of the biota were lower at the abandoned shooting range, which can be taken as a sign of starting recovery of the forest ecosystem. However, the concentration of water-extractable Pb had not decreased in the topsoil, possibly indicating the release of Pb from decaying litter. Deeper in the organic soil layer, weathering of Pb pellets enhanced Pb availability and leaching, indicating an increased risk of groundwater contamination over time at shooting sites located above aquifers. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012; 31: 2771–2779. © 2012 SETAC