Accumulation of airborne trace elements in mosses, lichens and synthetic materials exposed at urban monitoring stations: towards a harmonisation of the moss-bag technique.

Research paper by S S Giordano, P P Adamo, V V Spagnuolo, M M Tretiach, R R Bargagli

Indexed on: 21 Aug '12Published on: 21 Aug '12Published in: Chemosphere


Mosses, lichens and cellulose filters were exposed for 17 weeks at four urban monitoring stations in Naples (S Italy) to assess the accumulation of airborne Al, As, Ba, Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, K, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Ti, V, and Zn. In each site, the element accumulation was significantly higher in the moss Hypnum cupressiforme than in the lichen Pseudevernia furfuracea. Acid washed mosses accumulated the highest amount of trace elements, but the differences in element concentrations among the moss samples exposed after water washing and different devitalisation treatments (acid washing, oven drying and water boiling) and between the lichen samples exposed with and without the nylon bag were not statistically significant. The cellulose filters showed the lowest accumulation capability. The reciprocal ordination of sites and exposed materials showed an increasing contamination gradient (especially for Pb, Cu and Zn) from the background site to the trafficked city streets; this pattern was undetectable from PM(10) data recorded by the automatic monitoring devices operating in the four exposure sites. The element profile in exposed materials did not change substantially throughout the urban area and particles of polluted urban soils seem the main source of airborne metals in Naples. Through a comprehensive evaluation of the results from this and previous studies, a protocol is suggested for the moss-bag monitoring of trace element deposition in urban environments.