Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Science and Mathematics


Earth and Environmental Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Joshua Galster

Committee Member

Nina Goodey

Committee Member

Sandra Passchier

Committee Member

Jennifer Krumins


Soils--Heavy metal content, Soils--New Jersey--Jersey City, Extracellular enzymes


The overall goal of this research is to investigate the relationship between nutrient cycling and heavy metals in soil. Extracellular enzyme activities were measured as a representation of nutrient cycling in soils collected from a heavy-metal contaminated area where four study sites lie along a gradient of increasing metal load. The site, which was previously a rail yard, is located in Liberty State Park (LSP) in Jersey City, NJ that was closed to the public about 40 years ago and remains closed. My hypothesis is that heavy metal contamination impacts the microbial communities in the soil and therefore the extent of nutrient cycling. I selected three enzymatic activities, phosphatase, cellobiosidase, and L-leucine-aminopeptidase, which are representative of C, P, and N cycling respectively. The results of the enzyme activities of soil from LSP have shown that the highest of all three enzyme activities is in soils at the highest metal load site. I have also studied whether the soil is acting as an inhibitor to the enzymes. The study concludes that the metals in the soil do not inhibit the enzymes. The variation of the phosphatase activities and heavy metals were also determined within each site at LSP as well at a reference site, Hutcheson Memorial Forest located in Franklin Township, NJ. It was determined that the variation of both the phosphatase activities and heavy metal concentration varied most at the highest metal sites. Finally, the microenvironments were studied to examine the relationship between specific surface area and extracellular enzyme activities as well as the heavy metals. It was determined that the extracellular enzyme activities, specific surface area, and heavy metal concentrations (V, Cr, Cu, Zn, As, and Pb) were the highest at the smallest size particle (silt and clay) and were the lowest at the largest size particle (coarse sand). This research will give insights into heavy metals and the health of the soil and the soils’ microenvrionment.

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