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Copper distribution in European topsoils: An assessment based on LUCAS soil survey

Copper (Cu) distribution in soil is influenced by climatic, geological and pedological factors. Apart from geological sources and industrial pollution, other anthropogenic sources, related to the agricultural activity, may increase copper levels in soils, especially in permanent crops such as olive groves and vineyards. This study uses 21,682 soil samples from the LUCAS topsoil survey to investigate copper distribution in the soils of 25 European Union (EU) Member States.

Soil contamination can create a significant risk to human health. Among others, soil contamination occurs from the overuse of chemical fertilisers, farm animal waste, mining activities, leaded petrol and industrial waste (Steffan et al., 2018). Soil pollution is a major threat to the European Union (EU) soils as the estimated number of potentially contaminated sites is >2.5 million and the identified contaminated sites around 342 thousand (Panagos et al., 2013a).

Pollution by heavy metals in agricultural soils is a particularly pressing concern since it affects food safety and security. Elements that are considered as micronutrients, such as copper (Cu), are particularly relevant because plants tend to uptake them and accumulate the excess in their tissues. Over the past decades, Cu has been extensively used as a fungicide, especially in vineyards to combat mildew. Read the article further