Soil Ingestion By Sheep Grazing the Metal Enriched Floodplain Soils of Mid-Wales
- Cite this article as:
- Abrahams, P.W. & Steigmajer, J. Environmental Geochemistry and Health (2003) 25: 17. doi:10.1023/A:1021217402950
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Floodplain soils within and downstream from the mineralised and mined areas of mid-Wales, are contaminated by metals, especially Pb, because of historical and contemporary fluvial pollution. Rates of soil ingestion by sheep grazing these sites have been quantified to establish the relative importance of the soil-plant-animal and soil-animal pathway of metals. The highest rates of soil ingestion occurred during the winter/spring period. During March, soil ingestion exceeded 30% of the D.M. intake at 2 of the 11 sites investigated. The total daily intake of metals by sheep reflects the degree of soil metal enrichment, and is elevated during the winter/spring period, coincident with the higher rates of soil ingestion and the generally higher pasture herbage metal concentrations. Because the soil-plant transfer of Pb is low, ingested soil is often the major pathway of this metal to sheep. This is especially evident in March and May when on average 80.0 and 82.9%, respectively of the Pb intake was via soil ingestion. At one site in May, 97% of the Pb intake was attributable to ingested soil. Even when soil-plant transfers are not so low, as found for Cu and Zn, ingested soil can occasionally supply greater than 60% of these metals to the animal. However, despite the potential importance of soil ingestion, little is known about the availability to and absorption of soil-borne metals by animals.