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POPs in Mountain Soils from the Alps and Andes: Suggestions for a ‘Precipitation Effect’ on Altitudinal Gradients

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Abstract

POPs are still a priority environmental problem, but can be used as a scientific tool for understanding the distribution phenomena. Both high mountains and polar areas are seen as priority zones for contamination studies. In this context, two altitudinal series of soil samples were analysed for several classes of Persistent Organic Pollutants (PCBs, DDTs, HCHs, HCB and chlordane). Two transects were carried out – one in the Peruvian Andes (Cordillera Blanca) and the other in the Italian Alps (Mount Legnone). In these two areas, POP composition and levels both gave different results, linked to regional emission history. The Italian samples were characterized by high levels of industrial type compounds, and by surprisingly high DDT contamination, due to a defined consistent local source in Northern Italy. The Peruvian samples, on the other hand, were characterized by generally low POP levels with relatively high DDT contamination. The concentration increase in line with elevation was evident only in the Italian transect, where higher precipitation intensities and an increasingly higher precipitation gradient in accordance with altitude was found present. Precipitations are considered a key factor for enhancing the condensation effect at high altitudes and for reducing summer revolatilisation, as they lower soil temperature. In the Italian altitudinal gradient, evidence of fractionation processes, with a shift of the PCB composition towards less chlorinated congeners, and a vegetation effect with a mean woodland/grassland enrichment factor between 2 and 4 were also observed.

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Aknowledgement

We are very grateful to Stefano Losa for the sample collection from Mount Legnone (Italy) and to the Italian Alpine Club for its financial support.

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Correspondence to Paolo Tremolada.

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Tremolada, P., Villa, S., Bazzarin, P. et al. POPs in Mountain Soils from the Alps and Andes: Suggestions for a ‘Precipitation Effect’ on Altitudinal Gradients. Water Air Soil Pollut 188, 93–109 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-007-9527-5

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