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Element-specific behaviour and sediment properties modulate transfer and bioaccumulation of trace elements in a highly-contaminated area (Augusta Bay, Central Mediterranean Sea)

Signa, Geraldina, Mazzola, Antonio, Di Leonardo, Rossella, Vizzini, Salvatrice
Chemosphere 2017 v.187 pp. 230-239
arsenic, benthic organisms, bioaccumulation, bioavailability, cadmium, carbon, carnivores, coasts, diet, invertebrates, macroalgae, mercury, nickel, redox potential, risk, sediment contamination, sediments, Mediterranean Sea
High sediment contamination in the coastal area of Priolo Bay, adjacent to the highly-polluted Augusta Harbour, poses serious risks for the benthic communities inhabiting the area. Nevertheless, the transfer of trace elements and consequent bioaccumulation in the biota is an overlooked issue. This study aimed to assess the transfer and bioaccumulation patterns of As, Cd, Ni and Hg to the dominant macroalgae and benthic invertebrates of Priolo Bay. Results revealed different patterns among trace elements (TEs), not driven by sediment contamination but rather by element-specific behaviour coupled with sediment physicochemical properties. Specifically, As accumulated in macroalgae but not in invertebrates, indicating bioavailability of dissolved As only, and a lack of effective trophic transfer. Ni was confined to surface sediment and transfer to biota was not highlighted. Cd and Hg showed the highest concentrations in invertebrates and bioaccumulated especially in filter feeders and carnivores, revealing the importance of suspended particulate and diet as transfer pathways. Total organic carbon (TOC), fine-grained sediments and redox potential were the most important sediment features in shaping the sediment contamination spatial patterns as well as those of TE transfer and bioaccumulation. In particular, As and Cd transfer to macroalgae, and especially Hg bioaccumulation in benthic invertebrates was controlled by sediment properties, resulting in limited transfer and accumulation in the most contaminated stations.