Skip to main content Accessibility help

Natural variability and distribution of trace elements in marine organisms from Antarctic coastal environments

  • Marco Grotti (a1), Francesco Soggia (a1), Cristina Lagomarsino (a1), Simona Dalla Riva (a1), Walter Goessler (a2) and Kevin A. Francesconi (a2)...


In an attempt to improve the understanding of the natural variability and distribution of trace elements in Antarctic organisms, the concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, vanadium and zinc in representative benthic species from two pristine coastal environments were measured and compared with literature data for other uncontaminated coastal ecosystems. Correlations between the elements, differences between the species and between the sampling sites were examined by principal component analysis. Metal accumulation was particularly evident in the tissues of the sea star Odontaster validus, the bivalve mollusc Laternula elliptica and in the red alga Phyllophora antarctica. However, metal accumulation was not the same for all the analytes, but, rather, depended on the organism characteristics. In particular, the soft tissues of Odontaster validus were characterized by high concentrations of cadmium, zinc and copper, those of Phyllophora antarctica by high concentrations of manganese and nickel, and the tissues of Laternula elliptica by high concentrations of all measured elements, particularly in its digestive gland. The Antarctic data as well as those reported for other pristine coastal ecosystems showed remarkably high natural variability in metal content, which must be taken into account when interpreting results from biomonitoring programmes.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Ahn, I.-Y., Lee, S.H., Kim, K.T., Shim, J.H. & Kim, D.-Y. 1996. Baseline heavy metal concentrations in the Antarctic clam, Laternula elliptica in Maxwell Bay, King George Island, Antarctica. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 32, 592598.
Andrade, S., Poblet, A., Scagliola, M., Vodopivez, C., Curtosi, A., Pucci, A. & Marcovecchio, J. 2001. Distribution of heavy metals in surface sediments from an Antarctic marine ecosystem. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 66, 147158.
Arnaud, P.M. 1977. Adaptations within the Antarctic marine benthic ecosystem. In Llano, G.A., ed. Adaptations within Antarctic ecosystems. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 135157.
Bargagli, R. 2000. Trace metals in Antarctica related to climate change and increasing human impact. Reviews of Environmental Contamination & Toxicology, 166, 129173.
Bargagli, R., Monaci, F., Sanchez-Hernandez, J.C. & Cateni, D. 1998. Biomagnification of mercury in an Antarctic marine coastal food web. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 169, 6576.
Bargagli, R., Nelli, L., Ancora, S. & Focardi, S. 1996. Elevated cadmium accumulation in marine organisms from Terra Nova Bay (Antarctica). Polar Biology, 16, 513520.
Berkman, P.A. & Nigro, M. 1992. Trace metal concentrations in scallops around Antarctica: extending the Mussel Watch Programme to the Southern Ocean. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 24, 322323.
Boyden, C.R. 1974. Trace metal content and body size in molluscs. Nature, 251, 311314.
Bustamante, P., Bocher, P., Cherel, Y., Miramand, P. & Caurant, F. 2003. Distribution of trace elements in the tissues of benthic and pelagic fish from the Kerguelen Islands. The Science of the Total Environment, 313, 2539.
Canli, M. & Atli, G. 2003. The relationships between heavy metal (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb, Zn) levels and the size of six Mediterranean fish species. Environmental Pollution, 121, 129136.
Dalla Riva, S., Abelmoschi, M.L., Magi, E. & Soggia, F. 2004. The utilization of the Antarctic environmental bank (BCAA) in monitoring Cd and Hg in an Antarctic coastal area in Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, northern Victoria Land). Chemosphere, 56, 5969.
Dalla Riva, S., Abelmoschi, M.L., Chiantore, M., Grotti, M., Magi, E. & Soggia, F. 2003. Biogeochemical cycling of Pb in the coastal marine environment at Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea. Antarctic Science, 15, 425432.
Dalla Riva, S., Abelmoschi, M.L., Grotti, M., Soggia, F., Bottaro, M. & Vacchi, M. 2006. The occurrence of lead in the bone tissue of Trematomus bernacchii, Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea. Antarctic Science, 18, 7580.
Deheyn, D.D., Gendreau, P., Baldwin, R.J. & Latz, M.I. 2005. Evidence for enhanced bioavailibility of trace elements in the marine ecosystem of Deception Island, a volcano in Antarctica. Marine Environmental Research, 60, 133.
De Moreno, J.E.A., Gerpe, M.S., Moreno, V.J. & Vodopivez, C. 1997. Heavy metals in Antarctic organisms. Polar Biology, 17, 131140.
Den Besten, P.J., Herwig, H.J., Voogt, P.A. & Zandee, D.I. 1989. The presence of metallothionein in the sea star Asterias rubens. In Vernet, J.-P., ed. Heavy metals in the environment. Edinburgh: CEP Consultants Ltd, 582585.
Dos Santos, I.R., Silva-Filho, E.V., Schaefer, C., Sella, S.M., Silva, C.A., Gomes, V., Passos, M.J.D.A.C.R. & Ngan, P.V. 2006. Baseline mercury and zinc concentrations in terrestrial and coastal organisms of Admiralty Bay, Antarctica. Environmental Pollution, 140, 304311.
Giordano, R., Lombardi, G., Ciaralli, L., Beccaloni, E., Sepe, A., Ciprotti, M. & Costantini, S. 1999. Major and trace elements in sediments from Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica. The Science of The Total Environment, 227, 2940.
Giuliani, P., Kuneshka, M. & Testa, L. 2001. The Italian environmental policy of research in Antarctica, with special regard to the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol. In Caroli, S., Cescon, P. & Walton, D.W.H., eds. Environmental contamination in Antarctica. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 337361.
Grotti, M., Soggia, F., Ianni, C. & Frache, R. 2005. Trace metals distribution in coastal sea ice of Terra Nova Bay, Ross Sea, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 17, 289300.
Hempel, G. 1985. Antarctic marine food webs. In Siegfried, W.R., Condy, P.R. & Laws, R.M., eds. Antarctic nutrient cycles and food webs. Berlin: Springer, 266270.
Hornung, H., Kress, N. & Rameloc, G. 1991. Distribution of trace elements in the starfish Astropecten bispinosus from Haifa Bay, Israel. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 22, 307311.
Jimenets, B., Fossi, M.C., Nigro, M. & Focardi, S. 1999. Biomarker approach to evaluating the impact of scientific stations on the Antarctic environment using Trematomus bernacchii as a bioindicator organism. Chemosphere, 39, 20732078.
Kahle, J. & Zauke, G.P. 2003. Trace metals in Antarctic copepods from the Weddell Sea (Antarctica). Chemosphere, 51, 409417.
Lenihan, H.S., Oliver, J.S., Oakden, J.M. & Stephenson, M.D. 1990. Intense and localized benthic marine pollution around McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 21, 422430.
Lohan, M.C., Statham, P.J. & Peck, L. 2001. Trace metals in the Antarctic soft-shelled clam Laternula elliptica: implications for metal pollution from Antarctic research stations. Polar Biology, 24, 808817.
Luoma, S.N. & Rainbow, P.S. 2005. Why is metal bioaccumulation so variable? Biodynamics as a unifying concept. Environmental Science & Technology, 39, 19211931.
Mahowald, N.M., Baker, A.R., Bergametti, G., Brooks, N., Duce, R.A., Jickells, T.D., Kubilay, N., Prospero, J.M. & Tegen, I. 2005. Atmospheric global dust cycle and iron inputs to the ocean. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 19, doi:10.1029/2004GB002402.
Mauri, M., Orlando, E., Nigro, M. & Regoli, F. 1990. Heavy metals in the Antarctic scallop Adamussium colbecki. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 67, 2733.
Minganti, V., Capelli, R. & De Pellegrini, R. 1998. The concentrations of Pb, Cd, Cu, Zn, and V in Adamussium colbecki from Terra Nova Bay (Antarctica). International Journal of Environmental and Analytical Chemistry, 71, 257263.
Negri, A., Burns, K., Boyle, S., Brinkman, D. & Webster, N. 2006. Contamination in sediments, bivalves and sponges of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Environmental Pollution, 143, 456467.
Nigro, M., Regoli, F., Rocchi, L. & Orlando, E. 1997. Heavy metals in Antarctic molluscs. In Battaglia, B., Valencia, J. & Walton, D.W.H., eds. Antarctic communities: species, structure and survival. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 409412.
Nygard, T., Lie, E., Nils, R. & Steinnes, E. 2001. Metal dynamics in an Antarctic food chain. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 42, 598602.
Petri, G. & Zauke, G.P. 1993. Trace metals in crustaceans in the Antarctic Ocean. Ambio, 22, 529536.
Rainbow, P.S. 1989. Copper, cadmium and zinc concentrations in oceanic amphipod and euphausiid crustaceans, as a source of heavy metals to pelagic seabirds. Marine Biology, 103, 513518.
Rainbow, P.S. 2002. Trace metal concentrations in aquatic invertebrates: why and so what? Environmental Pollution, 120, 497507.
Sanchez-Hernandez, J.C. 2000. Trace element contamination in Antarctic ecosystems. Review of Environmental Contamination and. Toxicology, 166, 83127.
Soggia, F., Ianni, C., Magi, E. & Frache, R. 2001. Antarctic Environmental Specimen Bank. In Caroli, S., Cescon, P. & Walton, D.W.H., eds. Environmental contamination in Antarctica. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 305325.
Soggia, F., Abelmoschi, M.L., Dalla Riva, S., De Pellegrini, R. & Frache, R. 2000. Antarctic environmental specimen bank - first five years of experience. International Journal of Environmental and Analytical Chemistry, 79, 367378.
Sures, B. & Reinmann, N. 2003. Analysis of trace metals in the Antarctic host-parasite system Notothenia coriiceps and Aspersentis megarhynchus (Acanthocephala) caught at King George Island, South Shetland Islands. Polar Biology, 26, 680686.
Tessier, A., Campbell, P.G.C., Auclair, J.C. & Bisson, M. 1984. Relationships between the partitioning of trace metals in sediments and their accumulation in the tissues of the freshwater mollusc Elliptio complanata in a mining area. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 41, 14631472.
Turekian, K.K. & Wedepohl, K.H. 1961. Distribution of the elements in some major units of the Earth's crust. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 72, 175192.


Natural variability and distribution of trace elements in marine organisms from Antarctic coastal environments

  • Marco Grotti (a1), Francesco Soggia (a1), Cristina Lagomarsino (a1), Simona Dalla Riva (a1), Walter Goessler (a2) and Kevin A. Francesconi (a2)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.