Legacy Pb pollution in the contemporary environment and its potential bioavailability in three mountain catchments

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  • Sophia V. Hansson
  • Youen Grusson, Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet
  • ,
  • Marianna Chimienti
  • Adrien Claustres, Université de Toulouse
  • ,
  • Séverine Jean, Université de Toulouse
  • ,
  • Gaël Le Roux, Université de Toulouse

Historical mining has a millennial scale history on the globe often leaving a long-lasting imprint on the environment. Previous results on trace metal concentrations in the Pyrenees, where extensive mining (Ag, Fe) occurred from the Antiquity to the 19th century, suggest that ≥600 tons of anthropogenic lead (Pb) is stored in soils in the Haut-Vicdessos area (France). Yet the potential bioavailability of this legacy contamination to contemporary biota remains unclear. We therefore asked if previously reported high-levels of legacy Pb can be seen in other environmental compartments including aquatic biota, and how these are distributed within the biota. Based on Pb-isotopic data, we also assessed if any Pb contamination found in contemporary biota can be linked to local/regional mining. Samples of sphagnum, soil, sediment, biofilm, and fish (Salmo trutta and Phoxinus phoxinus) were collected from three adjacent valleys in the Haut-Vicdessos area. Pb concentrations varied both between sites (i.e. decreasing concentrations with increasing distance from the former mine) and between within-site environmental compartments (i.e. soil > biofilm ≥ sediment > sphagnum > fish) as well as within organisms (i.e. entire organism > liver > muscle). Further, Pb-isotopic ratios ( 206 Pb/ 207 Pb, 208 Pb/ 207 Pb and 208 Pb/ 206 Pb) measured in soil, biofilm, and fish indicated both natural (weathering bedrock) and anthropogenic (industrial, transportation and/or former mining activities) sources of Pb-deposition to the area. Generally, body Pb-concentrations were within regulatory guidelines, yet contemporary biota in the upper Haut-Vicdessos area, and their prey, still showed a large range of Pb isotopic signatures, of which former mining activities appeared to have a strong influence. Our study showed that mining derived legacy Pb continues to affect onsite biota even if mining activities ceased >100 years ago, thus reflecting the long-lasting impact of human-environment interaction, suggesting that ecosystem conditions may remain impaired centuries after activities have ceased.

TidsskriftScience of the Total Environment
Sider (fra-til)1227-1236
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 2019

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