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Implementing the monitoring breakdown structure: native lichens as biomonitors of element deposition in the southern Patagonian forest connected with the Puyehue volcano event in 2011-a 6-year survey (2006-2012).

  • Conti, Marcelo Enrique1
  • Plà, Rita2
  • Simone, Cristina3
  • Jasan, Raquel2
  • Finoia, Maria Grazia4
  • 1 Department of Management, University of Rome, Sapienza, Via del Castro Laurenziano 9, 00161, Rome, Italy. [email protected] , (Italy)
  • 2 Departamento Química Nuclear, GAATEN, Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica (CNEA), Av. del Libertador 8250, 1429, Buenos Aires, Argentina. , (Argentina)
  • 3 Department of Management, University of Rome, Sapienza, Via del Castro Laurenziano 9, 00161, Rome, Italy. , (Italy)
  • 4 Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), Via di Casalotti 300, 00166, Rome, Italy. , (Italy)
Published Article
Environmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication Date
Jul 06, 2020
DOI: 10.1007/s11356-020-10001-0
PMID: 32632679


This study aims to investigate the airborne elements' deposition by using native Usnea barbata lichens as biomonitors in the forested areas of Tierra del Fuego (TdF, southern Patagonia), an apparently pristine environment. The present study is linked to the volcanic eruption of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle which started in north Patagonia in June 2011, which gives rise to long-distance transport of pollutants through the atmosphere at 1700 km from our sampling sites. The monitoring breakdown structure (MBS) was applied to three sampling campaigns in 2006 (baseline) ➔ 2011-2012 (3 and 15 months after the volcanic event, respectively). We have on purpose enhanced the information variety endowment: (i) Seventy-one referenced sites were double sampled; (ii) up to 426 composite lichen samples were collected; (iii) twenty-six elements were measured by neutron activation analysis (As, Ba, Br, Ca, Ce, Co, Cr, Cs, Eu, Fe, Hf, K, La, Lu, Na, Rb, Sb, Sc, Se, Sm, Ta, Tb, Th, U, Yb, Zn) for samples of 2011 and 2012 campaigns; (iv) thirteen common elements (As, Ba, Ca, Co, Cr, Cs, Fe, K, Na, Sb, Se, U, Zn) were determined in 2006 for the baseline comparison. The natural contamination by tephras is reflected by lichens more clearly in the 2011 campaign, where Ba, Cr, Na, Ca, Cs, and U showed higher median levels compared with the baseline campaign (2006). Ca, K, and Na were the most accumulated elements after the volcano event and could be associated with the volcanic ashes' deposition. Rare earth elements (REEs) showed no significant bioaccumulation levels between 2011 and 2012, indicating their association with higher lithogenic inputs than volcanic ashes. Using the Earth's crust as reference, nine elements (As, Ba, Br, Ca, K, Na, Sb, Se, and Zn) presented moderate/significant mean enrichment factor (EF) values (> 5). The usefulness of Usnea barbata as test species for direct biomonitoring oriented kinetic studies in areas characterized by a low human impact is confirmed. Eventually, our results confirm that TdF is not an actual pristine environment as earlier supposed.

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