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Distribution and accumulation of major and trace elements in water, sediment, and fishes from protected areas of the Atlantic Rainforest

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Environmental pollution affects the quality of the natural environment where major and trace elements have been commonly found to accumulate in biotic and abiotic matrices. The purposes of this research were (1) to assess the accumulation and distribution of 24 major and trace elements in water, sediments, and muscle and gills of ten native fishes from two natural areas with different degree of protection in the Atlantic Rainforest, (2) to discuss potential origin of the elements related to the land use, and (3) to assess the human health risk for water and muscle fish consumption in general and fisher populations. Major and trace elements were determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Concentrations of Ag, Cu, and Se in water and Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, and Zn in sediment were higher than the international guidelines for the aquatic biota protection. Muscle Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Hg, and Zn from several species (both studied areas) were above guidelines for human consumption. The bioaccumulation factor (< 6936) was higher in gills than in muscle, and indicated that Andromakhe saguazu, Andromakhe paris, Gymnogeophagus lipokarenos, and Steindachnerina biornata were macroconcentrators of Zn, and Australoheros ykeregua, G. lipokarenos, and Hemiancistrus fuliginosus were macroconcentrators of Se and Sr. The hazard index and target hazard quotient indicated that there is no risk from chronic consumption of water or fish. The results show the need to reduce the entry of pollutants into streams, paying special attention to reducing runoff in deforested areas.

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Data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files. Additional datasets are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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This research was possible thanks to the support provided by “Bosques Nativos Argentinos para la Biodiversidad” Foundation and its Research Center in Misiones, CIAR (Centro de Investigaciones Antonia Ramos). The authors wish to thank the Ministerio de Ecología y Recursos Naturales Renovables de la Provincia de Misiones for their logistical support. We are also grateful to F Castia, E Benitez, L Rojas, R Villalba, H Lory, G Ibarra, E Taron, F Ramirez, V Soley, Javier Unizony, Gastón Ramos, Fernanda Biolé, and Guy Comte for their invaluable collaboration in the field. The authors also thank the Universidad de Buenos Aires for E Rolón doctoral fellowship.


This study was supported by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica (Projects PICT 2015–2160, PICT 2021–2023, PICT 2019–0388) and Universidad de Buenos Aires (grant number UBACyT 20020190100069BA).

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Authors and Affiliations



ER: Conceptualization, data curation, formal analysis, methodology, software, validation, writing-original draft, writing-review and editing, and visualization. JJR: Data curation, writing-original draft, and writing-review and editing. EM: Data curation, writing-original draft, and writing-review and editing. PT: Methodology, formal analysis, and writing-original draft. MB: Methodology, formal analysis, and writing-original draft. CB: Methodology, formal analysis, and writing-original draft. VA: Funding acquisition, project administration, resources, investigation, writing-original draft, writing-review and editing, and supervision. EA: Conceptualization, data curation, formal analysis, methodology, funding acquisition, project administration, investigation, resources, writing-original draft, writing-review and editing, and supervision.

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Correspondence to Esteban Avigliano.

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Fish handling during sampling was performed following guidelines of the ethical committee of the UFAW Handbook on the Care and Management of Laboratory Animals ( Collection fish was authorized by the local Wildlife and Fisheries Authority guidelines and policies (Ministerio de Ecología y Recursos Renovables of Misiones Province, Law XVI N° 47, N° 509/07 and 052/18).

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Rolón, E., Rosso, J.J., Mabragaña, . et al. Distribution and accumulation of major and trace elements in water, sediment, and fishes from protected areas of the Atlantic Rainforest. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 58843–58868 (2022).

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