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Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 22, pp 12638–12650 | Cite as

Persistent organic pollutant accumulation in seasonal snow along an altitudinal gradient in the Tyrolean Alps

  • Lourdes Arellano
  • Joan O. GrimaltEmail author
  • Pilar Fernández
  • Jordi F. Lopez
  • Ulrike Nickus
  • Hansjoerg Thies
Research Article

Abstract

The snow capacity for storage of a large number of pollutants such as polybromodiphenyl ethers (PBDE), including BDE-209, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs; α- and γ-isomers), endosulfans (α- and β-isomers and the sulphate residue) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), in a steep altitudinal gradient (1,101–2,500 m above sea level (asl); maximum planar distance 16 km) in a typical European mountain system, the Tyrolean Alps (Austria), was studied here for the first time. Snow samples representing the whole snowpack accumulated at the end of the cold season were collected in all cases. The snow specific surface area (SSA) of these samples, 140–260 cm2 g−1, was characteristic of aged snow with low retention capacity. PAHs were the pollutant group in highest concentrations (500–8,400 pg L−1). PCBs and PBDEs were found in concentrations of 460–900 and 8.5–290 pg L−1, respectively. From the fourteen investigated BDE congeners, only BDE-47, BDE-99, BDE-100 and BDE-209 were found above the detection limit, which is consistent with the results found in the only previous study in the Tatra Mountains (Slovakia) which also involved a steep gradient (1,683–2,634 m asl; maximum planar distance 5 km; Arellano et al. 2011) and confirm the capacity of these low-volatile compounds for long-range transport from distant sources. HCB was found in a concentration range of 34–55 pg L−1. Snow deposition fluxes of PCB-118, PCB-153, γ-HCH, α-endosulfan and BDE-47 showed statistically significant correlations with altitude, involving higher values at higher elevation. This trend may reflect cold trapping effects in view of the snow particle contents and SSA values. However, these gradients were only significant for this limited number of compounds within each pollutant group which may be explained by differences in physical-chemical properties of the compounds and the limited capacity of the aged snow for organic pollutant retention. In some other cases, for example benzo[a]pyrene, the observed vertical gradients may reflect higher preservations at lower temperatures.

Keywords

Snow Tyrolean Alps Polybromodiphenyl ethers Organochlorine compounds Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Altitudinal gradients 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Roberto Quiroz for his assistance with lab work with snow in Innsbruck. Financial support was provided by the EU Project EUROLIMPACS (GOCE-CT-2003-505540) and ArcRisk (FP7-ENV-2008-1-226534). Financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Research through the GRACCIE Project (CSD2007-00067) is also acknowledged. The paper was also sponsored by the research group 2009SGR1178 from the Government of Catalonia. L.A. is thankful for a grant from Banco de Santander-CSIC.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lourdes Arellano
    • 1
  • Joan O. Grimalt
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pilar Fernández
    • 1
  • Jordi F. Lopez
    • 1
  • Ulrike Nickus
    • 2
  • Hansjoerg Thies
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Environmental ChemistryInstitute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDÆA-CSIC)BarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Institute of Meteorology and GeophysicsUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Institute of EcologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria

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