Biomonitoring of chemical elements in an urban environment using arboreal and bush plant species
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The aim of this work was to investigate the possibility of using several bush and arboreal plant species, usually present as ornamental plants in street and parks, as environmental indicators of pollution. This is a research paper that evaluates the real possibility of using a fast and low-cost procedure to evaluate the pollution degree through data obtained from plant species growing within an urban environment.
Leaves of six different bush and arboreal species were collected from different parts of Madrid (Spain), ranging from highly polluted considered areas to medium and low contaminated ones. A total of 66 chemical elements, from major to minor and trace, were determined for every leaf sample by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Statistical analyses were carried out using mainly box and whisker plots, linear discriminant analysis and cluster analysis.
The pollution by different elements of the studied areas of Madrid cannot be considered generally dangerous for human health. The level detected for the contaminants, in general, is similar or lower than other urban cities. Pb and V concentrations in plant samples tend to increase as traffic density increases. The different studied plant species showed a different capability of accumulation of certain elements. Cedrus deodara accumulates specially Ag, Hg, Mo and V; Cupressus sempervirens, Zr; Pinus pinea, As and Sb; Nerium oleander Ni, Pb, Mo and Se; Ligustrum ovalifolium, Sc and V; and Pittosporum tobira, Ag, Cd, Rb and Sc.
The leaves and needles collected from bush and arboreal plants common in this city have demonstrated to be useful to evaluate the level of pollution not only through the chemical analysis but also through the recognition of the visual injury symptoms. The application of multivariate statistical techniques combined with determining of element concentration and correlation analysis has been proved to be an effective tool for reach the objectives of the present work. This allows visualising quickly the damages and leading the sampling through the points of high-level pollution, saving analysis, time and money.
KeywordsUrban environment Air pollution Biomonitoring Chemical elements Bush species Arboreal species
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