Project background

The objective of this project is to develop and maintain an internet web page showing geochemical maps in the Danube River Basin catchment. Geochemical maps showing the spatial distribution of chemical elements such as heavy metals (e.g. Pb, Zn, Cd) in various environmental media (e.g. stream water and soil) should help decision makers, landuse planners, natural resources managers, scientific researchers and the public to study geochemical baselines, natural geochemical background and environmental contamination. It is also an objective to draw the attention of these interest groups to the benefits of geochemical maps.

By the overlay of potential contamination sources such as industrial and mining sites the possible link between contamination sources and know impacts can be studied. Similarly, by the overlay of potential receptors such as protected ecosystems, agricultural areas on floodplains or urban areas the link between receptors and known impacts can be studied. In this way, geochemical maps shown in this web page can assist contamination risk assessment along the source-pathway-receptor chain.

The internet web page is intended for the ICPDR (International Commission for the Protection o the Danube River) programme and it runs on ICPDR's home page (www.icpdr.org). The geochemical maps have been developed and offered by European Geological Surveys.

Project history

The project has been developed since 2007. Gyozo Jordan of the Geological Institute of Hungary (MAFI), national expert appointed by the Hungarian ICPDR Committee for the ICDPR Accident Prevention Task Group (AP TG) in 2007, proposed the use of geochemical maps of European geological surveys for spatial contamination assessment in the Danube Basin on the AP TG Meeting held in Regensburg, Germany in March 2007. Gyozo Jordan, as the Member of the EuroGeoSurveys (Association of European Geological Surveys; EGS) Geochemical Expert Group, and also as the Hungarian Contact Person for EuroGeoSurveys made a proposal for offering the EuroGeoSurveys European Geochemical Atlas and National Geochemical Maps to ICPDR on the Geochemistry Expert Group Meeting held in Brussels in September, 2007. The proposal has gained recognition and support (see Minutes). During a visit paid to ICPDR Office in Vienna in October 2007, the specific needs of ICPDR were discussed. Next, the ICPDR AP TG Meeting held in Kishinov, Moldova, in January 2008 approved the initiative (see Minutes). Similarly, the EGS Geochemistry Expert Group Meeting in Berlin in March 2008 also approved the initiative (see Minutes). The project has been implemented since then by receiving geochemical maps from concerned EGS Geochemistry Expert Group members and GIS data from ICPDR. The project is being developed and the web site is maintained by the Geological Institute of Hungary (MAFI). The project was jointly proposed and the work has been supported by Michaela Popovici of ICPDR and by Zsuzsanna KerekesnÉ Steindl and Éva Deseő of the Hungarian Ministry of Environment and Water (KvVM), ICPDR representatives.

Project organisation

Geochemical maps in the web feature the Water Framework Directive Priority Substances that are also shown in the europen geochemical atlas: Cd, Hg, Ni and Pb. In addition, geochemical maps are available for the additional ICPDR Danube Basin Priority Substances: As, Cr, Cu and Zn. The web page shows geochemical maps for the Danube Basin produced by European geological surveys from two data sources:

The advantage of the European Atlas is that it is fully harmonised: sampling, laboratory analysis, quality control and data processing methods are the same for all the participating countries. A further advantage is that several environmental media is covered including stream water and floodplain sediments. Its disadvantage is its low sampling density (1 sample per 5,000 square km) and significant part of the Danube Basin is not covered. The advantage of the National Maps is the higher sampling density (1 sample per 500 square km, on average). Their disadvantage however is the lack of harmonisation, therefore these maps cannot be compared across country borders due to differences of sampling media and to various sampling and laboratory analysis methods used. Also, some Danube countries lack national geochemical maps.

GIS (Geographic Information System) data and maps to serve background for the geochemical maps have two sources: (1) ICPDR database and (2) Google Earth. The ICPDR database provided the Danube River line and the Danube Catchment boundary. The stream and catchment boundary network uses the European Commission's CCM2 database (Catchment Characterisation and Modelling), for example. Thus, this topographic background has officially recognised sources, but it is a somewhat inflexible data format. Geochemical maps can also be viewed with the Google Earth internet application. Its advantage is the very detailed topographic background including aerial photographs and 3D view possibilities. The disadvantage is the lack of geographic harmony with official European Union spatial data sources.

The EuroGeoSurveys Geochemical Atlas is publically available. The National Geochemical Maps publication policy varies among the countries therefore the interested user shall contact the relevant national geological survey for the original maps and data (click at 'national contact' in the web page). The GoogleEarth and CCM2 topographic background layers are freely available from the internet.

The web page can be viewed by Microsoft Explorer 6.0 or above, Mozilla or any compatible internet browser.

Further development

The most important development should be to create the Geochemical Atlas of the Danube Basin. As it can be seen from the current web site, the presently available harmonised European geochemical atlas covers only a part of the basin and its sampling density is too low for supporting planning and catchment management. National geochemical maps cannot be compared due to the various methods used which is particularly problematic when studying trans-boundary effects along the borders of the 11 Danube countries. It is therefore necessary to make a harmonised high-density, multi-media, multi-element geochemical atlas for the Danube Basin using the EuroGeoSurveys methods, experience and capacities.

An important future development includes the integration of all geochemical maps into Google Earth (currently it is available only for some of the countries).

In order to enable contamination risk assessment, the inclusion of other data layers in the database such as contamination sources like mine sites and receptors such as various land use and land cover types is important.

If interest emerges, the current web page showing geochemical maps can be developed to a web-based GIS application that enables the user to overlay various environmental data layers in a flexible way.


The kind assistance of Timo Tarvainen and Samrit Luoma of the Finish Geological Survey with the processing of the European Geochemical Atlas is gratefully acknowledged. Suggestions from Piotr Lipiarski of the Austrian Geological Survey for the GoogleEarth application were very useful. Help of László Madocsai with the web page processing is acknowledged.