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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

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

Hansson, Sophia, V; Grusson, Youen; Chimienti, Marianna; Claustres, Adrien; Jean, Severine; Le Roux, Gael


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. Wetherefore 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 betweenwithin-site environmental compartments (i.e. soil > biofilm >= sediment > sphagnum > fish) as well as within organisms (i.e. entire organism N liver N muscle). Further, Pb-isotopic ratios (Pb-206/Pb-207, Pb-208/Pb-207 and Pb-208/Pb-206) 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 ifmining 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. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Mining; Pb; Pb-isotopes; Soil; Biofilm; Fish

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2019, Volume: 671, pages: 1227-1236

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Soil Science

    Publication identifier


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