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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Accumulation of antimony and lead in leaves and needles of trees: The role of traffic emissions

Pleijel, Hakan; Klingberg, Jenny; Strandberg, Bo; Sjoman, Henrik; Wallin, Goran


Antimony (Sb) is a toxic metalloid, which has been increasingly used in the brake lining of ve-hicles, and increased concentrations have been found in soils near abundant traffic. However, since very few investigations of Sb accumulation in urban vegetation have been undertaken there exists a knowledge gap. We studied the concentrations of Sb in leaves and needles of trees in the Gothenburg City area, Sweden. In addition, lead (Pb), also associated with traffic, was investi-gated. Sb and Pb concentrations of Quercus palustris leaves at seven sites with contrasting traffic intensity varied substantially, correlated with the traffic-related PAH (polycyclic aromatic hy-drocarbon) air pollution at the sites and increased during the growing season. Sb but not Pb concentrations were significantly higher in needles of Picea abies and Pinus sylvestris near major roads compared to sites at larger distances. In Pinus nigra needles at two urban streets both Sb and Pb were higher compared to an urban nature park environment, emphasising the role of traffic emissions for these elements. A continued accumulation of Sb and Pb in three years old needles of Pinus nigra, two years old needles of Pinus sylvestris and eleven years old needles of Picea abies was observed. Our data suggest a pronounced link between traffic pollution and Sb accumulation in leaves and needles, where the particles carrying Sb seem not to be transported very far from the source. We also conclude that there exists a strong potential for Sb and Pb bioaccumulation over time in leaves and needles. Implications of these findings are that increased concentrations of toxic Sb and Pb are likely to prevail in environments with high traffic intensity and that Sb can enter the ecological food chain by accumulation in leaves and needles, which is important for the biogeochemical cycling.


Accumulation; Gothenburg; Leaf age; Needle age; PAH; Pb; Sb; Traffic

Published in

2023, Volume: 9, number: 2, article number: e13548

    Sustainable Development Goals

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

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