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90Sr and stable element levels in bones of brown bears: long-term trends in bear populations from Croatia and Poland

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The aim of this study was to investigate the temporal trends and geographical differences in 90Sr and stable element (Ba, Ca, Mn, Sr, Pb, Zn) levels in the bones of Croatian and Polish brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations. Experimental data suggest that in the decades after nuclear weapon tests and the Chernobyl accident, 90Sr bone activity concentrations decreased from 352 to 11 Bq kg−1 in the Croatian bear population (period 1982–2015) and from 831 to 27 Bq kg−1 in Polish bears (period 1962–2020). Calculated effective and ecological half-lives were 9 and 13 years for Croatian bears, and 15 and 31 years for Polish bears, respectively. Different temporal trends were noted in levels of Ba, Mn, Pb and Zn between the two countries with majority of bones having lower Pb, Sr and Zn in Croatian than in Polish bears. Estimated values for the soil-to-bear transfer of 90Sr were the same order of magnitude in the studied populations. Contrary to this, the estimated transfer of stable Sr was an order of magnitude lower for the Croatian bear population compared to Polish bears. The observed differences in soil-to-bear transfer between stable Sr and 90Sr found for Croatian bears might suggest the need for careful consideration on the use of stable Sr data as an analogue for 90Sr. To our knowledge, this is the first study that analysed 90Sr activity in tissue of brown bears. As such, it provides insight into the fate and behaviour of one of the most relevant anthropogenic radionuclides at the top of the food chain.

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The data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files. The datasets used are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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The authors are thankful to Miroslav Brletić (Vodoprivreda Zagreb d.d.) for helping with bone-crushing, Vinko Baranašić (Faculty of Mining Geology and Petroleum Engineering, University of Zagreb) and Vesna Ocelić Bulatović (Faculty of Metallurgy, University of Zagreb) for helping with bone milling, Martina Omazić for helping with the sample analysis, and Makso Herman for proofreading. Special appreciation goes to Mak Avdić for his continuous help and support in activities related to sample transportation and preparation.


The bone sampling for this study in Poland was supported by funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 665778 through the National Science Centre in Poland, within the frames of project no. 2016/23/P/NZ9/03951 (BearHealth). Bone sampling in Croatia was supported by LIFE DINALP BEAR and CARNIVORA DINARICA projects as well as the Bernd Thies Foundation and Euronatur. The funding sources had no role in the study design and collection and interpretation of data.

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BS: conceptualization: Božena Skoko, Maja Lazarus, Agnieszka Sergiel, Đuro Huber; validation: Božena Skoko, Jelena Kovačić; formal analysis: Božena Skoko, Maja Lazarus, Ankica Sekovanić, Jelena Kovačić; investigation: Božena Skoko; methodology: Milica Kovačić, Ankica Sekovanić; writing—original draft: Božena Skoko, Milica Kovačić, Maja Lazarus, Jelena Kovačić; writing—review and editing: Božena Skoko, Jelena Kovačić, Maja Lazarus, Ankica Sekovanić, Agnieszka Sergiel, Tomasz Zwijacz-Kozica, Slaven Reljić, Branko Petrinec, Nuria Selva, Đuro Huber; resources: Agnieszka Sergiel, Tomasz Zwijacz-Kozica, Slaven Reljić, Đuro Huber; funding acquisition: Agnieszka Sergiel, Slaven Reljić, Branko Petrinec, Nuria Selva, Đuro Huber; project administration: Đuro Huber; visualisation: Božena Skoko, Maja Lazarus; Supervision: Božena Skoko.

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Correspondence to Maja Lazarus.

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90Sr and stable element levels in the bones of brown bears: long-term trends in bear populations from Croatia and Poland.

The original online version of this article was revised: The layout of Table 2 is modified in the original published proof.

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Skoko, B., Kovačić, M., Lazarus, M. et al. 90Sr and stable element levels in bones of brown bears: long-term trends in bear populations from Croatia and Poland. Environ Sci Pollut Res 30, 32507–32522 (2023).

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