Sources of elevated heavy metal concentrations in sediments and benthic marine invertebrates of the western Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctica is one of the least anthropogenically-impacted areas of the world. Metal sources to the marine environment include localised activities of research stations and glacial meltwater containing metals of lithogenic origin. In this study, concentrations of nine metals (Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, Zn) were examined in three species of benthic invertebrates collected from four locations near Rothera Research Station on the western Antarctic Peninsula: Laternula elliptica (mudclam, filter feeder), Nacella concinna (limpet, grazer) and Odontaster validus (seastar, predator and scavenger). In addition, metals were evaluated in sediments at the same locations. Metal concentrations in different body tissues of invertebrates were equivalent to values recorded in industrialized non-polar sites and were attributed to natural sources including sediment input resulting from glacial erosion of local granodioritic rocks. Anthropogenic activities at Rothera Research Station appeared to have some impact on metal concentrations in the sampled invertebrates, with concentrations of several metals higher in L. elliptica near the runway and aircraft activities, but this was not a trend that was detected in the other species. Sediment analysis from two sites near the station showed lower metal concentrations than the control site 5 km distant and was attributed to differences in bedrock metal content. Differences in metal concentrations between organisms were attributed to feeding mechanisms and habitat, as well as depuration routes. L. elliptica kidneys showed significantly higher concentrations of eight metals, with some an order of magnitude greater than other organs, and the internal structure of O. validus had significantly higher Ni. This study supports previous assessments of N. concinna and L. elliptica as good biomonitors of metal concentrations and suggests O. validus as an additional biomonitor for use in future Antarctic metal monitoring programs.