Land use in the study area comprises
mainly extensive agriculture, with semi-natural grasslands in use for cattle grazing. A small part of the grassland area, which is surrounded by a hedgerow, is employed for sheep grazing and contains some scattered fruit trees. The banks of the river are covered by willow pollards. Sampling sites were selected at 30 locations, based on differences in vegetation and hydro-topographic GSK872 setting (distance to the river, elevation) that were apparent in the field. Investigation of environmental characteristics The coordinates of the sampling sites were recorded with an accuracy of 1 m using a hand-held GPS (Garmin Vista HCx) and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). The elevation of each sampling site was derived from The Netherlands’ 5 GSK126 × 5 m digital elevation model (www.ahn.nl). The average yearly flooding duration (days per year) was derived from daily river water level data covering the period 1999–2008 (www.waterbase.nl). River water levels at the study area were based on measurements obtained at a gauging
station approximately 10 km upstream, assuming an average water level drop of 3.8 cm km−1. This water level drop was calculated from linear interpolation of the average water levels measured at the upstream gauging station and at a gauging station approximately 20 km downstream. The unembanked sampling sites and the sites higher than the minor CB-839 price embankment were assigned the duration of river water levels exceeding their elevation; the embanked Tolmetin sites were assigned the duration of water levels exceeding the height of the embankment (9.10 m). The 0–5 cm upper soil layer was sampled in August 2007. Within a radius of 1 m from the centre of each site, three soil samples were collected. The samples were pooled per site, mixed, and air-dried for 48 h at ambient room temperature. The pH was measured in a suspension of 10 g air-dried soil mixed with 25 ml deionized water (<10 μS cm−1), mixed 24 h before the measurement.
Air-dried samples were oven-dried for determining the soil moisture content, based on the weight loss upon 24 h at 105°C. Soil organic matter content (%) was determined by the weight loss upon ignition (4 h at 550°C) of ~10 g oven-dried samples. The particle size distribution of the soil was analyzed by means of laser diffraction (Malvern Master Sizer 2000 with Hydro 2000 G), performed on oven-dried samples sieved over 2000 μm. Prior to this analysis, samples were treated with 30% H2O2 and 10% HCl for detaching coagulating particles and dissolving organic matter. To determine the soil metal concentrations, 0.2 g dw soil of each sample was weighted on a Sartorius LA310S mass balance and digested in a mixture of 4 ml 65% HNO3 and 1 ml 30% H2O2 using a Milestone Ethos-D microwave.