The study comprises long term (10 years) measurements of the concentrations of selected heavy metals in three differently used and structured locations in South Sardinia and includes an assessment of the correlation within the examined compartments (soils, sediments, vegetation, running water and immisions). Growth experiments with cress and spinach give some indication of possible uptake into the food chain. An integrated view of the main fields of study reveals the geoecological relevance of heavy metal contamination for the mediterranean ecosystems examined here, the anthropogenic hazard potential as well as the element transfer in the various environmental compartments. The following locations were examined: * an area in the mountains of SW Sardinia (the catchment area of the Riu sa Duchessa) dominated by old non ferrous mining activities. Ore processing and smelting in conjunction with spoil heap erosion (by wind and water) have resulted in extreme heavy metal contamination and to complex problems in the accumulation zones of the eroded sediments. * an area in the vicinity of a new industrial zone (including a lead smelter, aluminium smelters, metal works) near Portoscuso. The zone was established largely without complying to environmental legislation. Various emmisions from the industrial complexes have contributed to the substantial toxic effects on arable plants as well as on the natural vegetation and have caused the destruction of agricultural products. In order to evaluate the results from these two locations * a forest reserve on the SE slope of the Iglesiente (the catchment area of the Torrente Pixinamanna) largely unaffected by anthropogenic influences was selected as the control. Precursory studies already indicated that a realistic element differentiation as well as an adequate assessment of the effects of heavy metals in each environmental compartment depends on numerous requirements. These include a suitable choice of the type of samples to be taken, the sampling density, the analytical methods employed (including a knowledge of the precision and the accuracy of the analyses), and the statistical methods.In order to assess the element transfer, it is absolutely necessary to take into account the specific structures of the catchment areas. Pedogenetic and habitat ecological phenomena and processes as well as running water morphodynamics, including their climatic control play a key role. By considering these fields of study, results can be obtained that allow conclusions to be drawn that differ from those currently accepted. This is exemplified by the varying effect of pH, the clay fraction and organic matter contents in mobilizing/immobilizing heavy metals. In addition, the interpretation of climate morphology deviates from the accepted views. The resolution of plant and element specific differences in mobilizing processes provide new approaches for discussion. All results are presented at the end of this study.