Lichens as Sinks of Airborne Organic Pollutants: A Case Study in the Natural Ecosystem of Himalayas
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are predominantly released into the atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities. POPs pose risk to the global environment as they are persistent having long-range transport potential. In the developing nation like India, anthropogenic activities (mainly due to diesel-driven vehicles and industrial activity) are the major contributing factor of POPs in the environment and its dispersal in the air. Due to long-range transport of pollutants, deposition of POPs affects high-altitude ecosystems especially the Himalayas, which needs to be investigated as Himalayas are source of major perennial rivers and have rich biodiversity. Lichens having peculiar characteristics serve as potential sinks/accumulators for range of pollutants and are well-recognised biomonitors of pollutants including POPs.
The case study discussed in the present chapter is pioneer regarding the levels of PCB congeners as well as N-PAHs levels in lichens from Indian Himalayas. The levels and distribution of POPs, viz., polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) congeners, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitro-PAHs (N-PAHs), together with heavy metals, were analysed in lichen Heterodermia diademata samples from protected forest area of Lansdowne in Garhwal Himalaya, Uttarakhand, India. The result provided valuable information on the concentration of different POPs in lichen samples from Garhwal Himalayan region. Concentrations detected in lichens were further utilised for source apportionment, detecting the spatial behaviour of individual POPs. The study clearly indicated the influence of long-range transport of the PCB congeners, PAH and N-PAHs, as well as local practices of excessive usage of wood, coal and practice of forest fire as the major factors affecting the air quality of the Garhwal Himalayan forests.
KeywordsPCB congeners PAHs N-PAHs Metals Topography Meteorological condition
The authors acknowledge the Director, CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow for facilities and encouragements. V.S. is grateful to the Department of Science and Technology (DST-SERB), New Delhi, for award of Young Scientist fellowship (SR/FTP/ES-39/2013).
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