The Geological Surveys of Finland (GTK) and Norway (NGU) and the Central Kola Expedition (CKE) are carrying out
a major collaborative regional geochemical mapping project in a 188,000 km2-area north of the Arctic Circle in the three
countries involved. The aims are to establish regional geochemical maps of the distribution of heavy metals and radionuclides in this ecologically vulnerable area, and to assess the impact of the nickel smelters at Nikel and Monchegorsk and as of other heavy industries in this area on the environment.
As a preparation for the major mapping project, a pilot study was carried out in the surroundings of the nickel smelter and mine at Nikel and Zapoljarniy, close to the Norwegian and Finnish borders, taking a variety of sample media (snow, stream water, terrestrial moss, A0-horizon-soil, C-horizon-soils, stream sediment and overbank sediment) at 15 stations in each of the three countries.
In addition, a detailed study of 8 small catchments from the whole project area (4 in Russia, 3 in Finland, 1 in Norway) was carried out as part of the main project, studying element contents in precipitation (snow and rainwater), vegetation (terrestrial moss), soil ("topsoil 0-5 cm" and podzol profiles), stream water, organic stream sediment, quaternary deposits and bedrock and, in some catchments, groundwater.
Results indicate that precipitation is especially well suited to "fingerprint" the emission spectrum from the different industries in the area. Moss (Hyloconium splendens) is very well suited to map the regional extend of airborne pollution. However, moss is no longer present at the most polluted localities and is not as well suited for "fingerprinting" of a large suite of elements as precipitation because of the preferred uptake of certain elements. A0-horizon soils are suited for regional mapping as well, but may create some problems with interpretation in the background areas due to geogenic input, which can be avoided when sampling moss. In addition, A0-soils cannot be found in the most polluted areas due to severe environmental damages. Stream water delineated the extend of contamination very nicely and is a very cheap and practical sampling medium. The other media present a varying degree of mixture of geogenic and anthropogenic influences, and cannot be easily used for mapping the anthropogenic element input but are needed for the interpretation of the results.