Analysis of Mosses and Soils for Quantifying Heavy Metal Concentrations in Sicily: A Multivariate and Spatial Analytical Approach
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The use of vegetal organisms as indicators of contamination of the environment is partially replacing traditional monitoring techniques. Amongst the vegetal organisms available, mosses appear to be good bioindicators and are used for monitoring anthropogenic and natural fall-out on soils. This study has two objectives: the evaluation of the concentrations of heavy metals in soils and mosses of the Sicily Region, in Italy and the identification of the origin of fall-out of heavy metals.
Mosses and the surface soil were sampled at 28 sites, only the youngest segments of Hylocomium splendens and Hypnum cupressiforme, corresponding to the plant tissues produced during the last 3 years, were taken. The elements Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn were analysed by ICP-MS and Hg by AAS. Statistical analysis was by PCA and spatial representation by GIS.
Results and Discussion
In the mosses sampled in Sicily, the highest concentrations of Cd were found around the cities of Palermo and Messina. The highest concentrations of Hg were recorded in the northern part of the island between Trapani and Messina, similar to the distribution of Cu. Different areas with the highest concentrations of Ni were found near the south coast, in the vicinity of Palermo and around the Volcano Etna. The highest concentrations of Pb were found in the south-west coast near Agrigento, where important chemical plants and petroleum refineries are located. Except for a few locations, Zn fall-out was found to be evenly distributed throughout Sicily.
The sites where the concentrations of heavy metals cause greatest concern have been revealed by the PCA analysis and portrayed using GIS. Also of some concern is the diffuse and anthropogenic origin of Hg and Cd. The combined approach of using soil and mosses, together with pedological interpretation and application of multivariate statistical techniques has provided valuable insight into the environmental aspects of heavy metal deposition in a region of southern Europe.
Recommendations and Outlook
Further insight into the deposition of heavy metals will require more detailed sampling of soils and mosses in both new and previous study areas. This needs to be complemented by detailed pedological investigations in the study areas. Future research programmes will address these issues.
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