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Environ Monit Assess. 2012 Jan;184(1):527-38. doi: 10.1007/s10661-011-1985-y. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Atmospheric background trace elements deposition in Tierra del Fuego region (Patagonia, Argentina), using transplanted Usnea barbata lichens.

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Department of Management and Technologies, Sapienza University of Rome, Via del Castro Laurenziano 9, 00161 Rome, Italy.


Lichen, Usnea barbata, transplants taken from Tierra del Fuego (south Patagonia, Argentina) were tested as potential biomonitors of atmospheric airborne deposition in an apparently pristine environment. In 2005, lichens were sampled in a reference site (n = 31) and transplanted in the northern Region of Tierra del Fuego. After, respectively, 1 month and 1 year of exposure, we collected them. The aim of the study was to determine the bioaccumulation of 26 elements in order to evaluate the background levels in the selected area. Samples were analyzed by the sector field inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Discriminant analysis on principal component analysis factors was applied in order to explore the relationship among the different elements as far as time and spatial variation in transplants regards. The analysis was tested by Monte Carlo test based on 999 replicates. The most important contamination source resulted to be the atmospheric soil particle deposition. Furthermore, the results were compared with those obtained from the lichens collected in central and southern Tierra del Fuego. This study confirms the ability of U. barbata to reflect the background levels of the 26 elements in that environment. Compared with other background sites in the world, we did confirm that Tierra del Fuego lichens have a low content of the studied elements. Tierra del Fuego turned out not to be a pristine environment as supposed, but it can be considered as a reference basal ecosystem for useful comparisons among different geographical areas. These findings can be very relevant and useful for environmental conservation programs.

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