The impact of the tunnel exhausts in terms of heavy metals to the surrounding ecosystem
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Samples of soil, plants, and lichens were analysed for heavy metal content (Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn) in relation to different distances from the tunnel ventilation systems in order to evaluate the environmental pollution caused by car exhausts pollution from the Tauerntunnel and the Katschbergtunnel (Austria). Results show that the extent of heavy metal pollution is related to the type of tunnel ventilation system. The vertical ventilation system which ends in an exhaust air tower in the alpine pasture of Mosermandl 1,900 m above sea level contaminates soils and plants up to a distance of 750 m from the exhaust source. The dispersion of metals in front of the horizontal ventilation systems, which are located next to the tunnel portals, exhibits a rapid decrease with distance. Lichen transplants placed in front of the horizontal ventilation systems show very high metal accumulation, which gradually declines with the distance from the emitter source, therefore the lichen species Pseudevernia furfuracea can be used as a very efficient biomonitor for monitoring heavy metal pollution caused by tunnel exhausts over time. Data from former years (1986, 1988, 1990 and 1992) and from this present research suggest that the contamination of heavy metals at Mosermandl has decreased slightly in soil samples, except for Cu, but increased in plant samples, whereas a significant increase of Pb was observed.