Macroalgae as spatial and temporal bioindicators of coastal metal pollution following remediation and diversion of acid mine drainage

Richard Chalkley, Frederick Child, Khaleel Al-Thaqafi, Andre P. Dean, Keith White, Jon Pittman

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    Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a significant contributor of metal pollution leading to ecosystem damage. Bioindicator organisms such as intertidal brown macroalgae have an important role in quantifying the risks of metal bioaccumulation in coastal locations exposed to AMD contamination. Measurement of As, Cd, Cu, Fe, Pb, and Zn accumulation was performed in Fucus serratus, Fucus vesiculosus and Ascophyllum nodosum sampled from two marine locations near to an abandoned Cu mine in Anglesey, Wales, UK. Transect samples were taken from a coastal location (Amlwch) that has seen a substantial increase in AMD contamination over 15 years, in comparison to a nearby estuarine location (Dulas Estuary leading to Dulas Bay) with a historic legacy of pollution. These were compared with samples from the same sites taken 30 years earlier. Some of the Dulas macroalgae samples had Cd, Cu and Zn concentrations that were above background but in general indicated a non-polluted estuary in comparison to substantial pollution over previous decades. In contrast, Fucus samples collected from directly below an AMD outflow at Amlwch showed extremely elevated metal bioaccumulation (> 250 mg Fe g-1, > 6 mg Cu g-1, > 2 mg Zn g-1, > 190 μg As g-1) and evidence of macroalgae toxicity, indicating severe pollution at this site. However, the pollution dispersed within 200 m of the outflow source. This study has demonstrated the efficiency of three brown macroalgae species as indicators for metal bioavailability at high spatial resolution and over time.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number109458
    JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
    Early online date26 Jul 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Acid mine drainage
    • Bioaccumulation
    • Bioindicator
    • Macroalgae
    • Marine pollution
    • Trace metals


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