Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 3977–3988 | Cite as

Combination of beehive matrices analysis and ant biodiversity to study heavy metal pollution impact in a post-mining area (Sardinia, Italy)

  • Alberto Satta
  • Marcello Verdinelli
  • Luca Ruiu
  • Franco Buffa
  • Severyn Salis
  • Antonio Sassu
  • Ignazio FlorisEmail author
Research Article


Mining activities represent a major source of environment contamination. The aim of this study was to evaluate the use of bees and ants as bioindicators to detect the heavy metal impact in post-mining areas. A biomonitoring programme involving a combination of honeybee hive matrices analysis and ant biodiversity survey was conducted over a 3-year period. The experimental design involved three monitoring stations where repeated sampling activities focused on chemical detection of cadmium (Cd), chrome (Cr) and lead (Pb) from different matrices, both from hosted beehives (foraging bees, honey and pollen) and from the surrounding environment (stream water and soil). At the same time, ant biodiversity (number and abundance of species) was determined through a monitoring programme based on the use of pitfall traps placed in different habitats inside each mining site. The heavy metal content detected in stream water from the control station was always below the analytical limit of quantification. In the case of soil, the content of Cd and Pb from the control was lower than that of mining sites. The mean heavy metal concentrations in beehive matrices from mining sites were mainly higher than the control, and as a result of regression and discriminant analysis, forager bee sampling was an efficient environmental pollution bioindicator. Ant collection and identification highlighted a wide species variety with differences among habitats mostly associated with vegetation features. A lower variability was observed in the polluted landfill characterised by lack of vegetation. Combined biomonitoring with forager bees and ants represents a reliable tool for heavy metal environmental impact studies.


Biomonitoring Apis mellifera Bee products Pollution Myrmecofauna 



This work was supported by grants from the local government of Sardinia (Italy), “Assessorato all’Ambiente, Medio Campidano Province” and “Parco Geominerario, Storico, Ambientale della Sardegna”, Research Project “Biomonitoring of the mining and coastal area of Medio Campidano”. This work was also supported by the operating programme of Regione Sardegna (European Social Fund 2007–2013), L.R. 7/2007, “Promotion of scientific research and technological innovation in Sardinia”.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Satta
    • 1
  • Marcello Verdinelli
    • 2
  • Luca Ruiu
    • 1
  • Franco Buffa
    • 3
  • Severyn Salis
    • 3
  • Antonio Sassu
    • 2
  • Ignazio Floris
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Agraria–Sezione di Patologia Vegetale ed EntomologiaUniversità degli Studi di SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi–Consiglio Nazionale delle RicercheSassariItaly
  3. 3.Borsista L.R. 7/2007 “Promotion of scientific research and technological innovation in Sardinia”SardiniaItaly

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