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Environ Pollut. 1991;74(2):101-14.

Biomonitoring of heavy metals in the Western European Rivers Rhine and Meuse using the freshwater mussel Dreissena polymorpha.

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Department of Aquatic Ecology, University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 320, 1098 SM Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Since 1976, active and passive biological monitoring programs using the freshwater mussel Dreissena polymorpha have been carried out to study trends in the bioavailability of heavy metals in the rivers Rhine and Meuse. The Cd concentration in mussels exposed in the river Rhine has decreased from 74 mg kg(-1) in 1976 to 1.5 mg kg(-1) in 1988. In the river Meuse, however, the Cd concentration in Dreissena polymorpha has increased from 6 mg/kg (-1) to 22 mg kg(-1). Cu concentrations in mussels have not changed. Comparison of heavy metal concentrations in mussels from Lake Heerhugowaard, Lake Markermeer, Lake Maarsseveen and the river Dieze demonstrated that background concentrations for Cu, Zn, Cd and Pb in Dreissena polymorpha are about 12, 110, 1 and 0.5 mg kg(-1), respectively. Mussels from these four locations showed seasonal variation in heavy metal concentrations. This may be caused by both changes in the bioavailability of the metals and by the annual growth and reproductive cycle of the mussels. Therefore, one should take care that animals are collected at the same location and in the same section in long-term active biological monitoring programs.


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