Heavy metal accumulation in urban soils and deciduous trees in the City of Bolzano, N Italy
La Rocca N
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Bioindicators are organisms able to provide indirectly or directly information on the impact of pollutants in the environment. The content of heavy metals or other toxic compounds in these living organisms is of great interest to assess the level of contaminants. Leaves of the most common deciduous trees (Acer pseudoplatanus L., Betula pendula Roth, Carpinus betulus L., Cercis siliquastrum L., Ginkgo biloba L., Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus robur L. and Tilia cordata Miller) and two invasive tree species Ailanthus altissima P. Mill. and Robinia pseudoacacia L., in the City of Bolzano (southern Alps in Northern Italy), were therefore studied to assess their suitability as bioindicators for the trace elements Cd, Cu, Mn, Pb, and Zn, mainly considered as traffic related elements. Leaves and soil samples were investigated, both from high-density traffic roads and control sites of minor traffic impact, such as parks. Our data reveal that Betula pendula has a considerable Zn accumulation potential compared to the other investigated tree species. The maximum value measured for Zn in a Betula specimen is 200 mg kg-1 dry weight. With regard to the soils, considering the geoaccumulation index, most of the analyzed soils belong to the first class, i. e. uncontaminated (Igeo ≤ 0) for all analyzed elements. Moreover, in several samples collected in high traffic areas, Cu and Zn show values within 1 < Igeo ≤ 2 (moderately contaminated). This allows to hypothesize a traffic-related origin for these elements. For this reason, B. pendula can be considered a potential heavy metal accumulator and therefore a good bioindicator for these urban pollutants. Since B. pendula is widely distributed in urban areas in Central and Northern Europe, it can be considered a species suitable for a systematic and comparative monitoring network.