Augusto, S., Pinho, P., Santos, A., Botelho, M.J., Palma-Oliveira, J. & Branquinho, C. (2016) Tracking the spatial fate of PCDD/F emissions from a cement plant by using lichens as environmental biomonitors.Environmental Science & Technology, 50(5), 2434–2441. DOI:10.1021/acs.est.5b04873 (IF2016 6,198; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
In an area with multiple sources of air pollution, it is difficult to evaluate the spatial impact of a minor source. Here, we describe the use of lichens to track minor sources of air pollution. The method was tested by transplanting lichens from a background area to the vicinity of a cement manufacturing plant that uses alternative fuel and is located in a Natural Park in an area surrounded by other important sources of pollution. After 7 months of exposure, the lichens were collected and analyzed for 17 PCDD/F congeners. The PCDD/F profiles of the exposed lichens were dominated by TCDF (50%) and OCDD (38%), which matched the profile of the emissions from the cement plant. The similarity in the profiles was greatest for lichens located northeast of the plant (i.e., in the direction of the prevailing winds during the study period), allowing us to evaluate the spatial impact of this source. The best match was found for sites located on the tops of mountains whose slopes faced the cement plant. Some of the sites with highest influence of the cement plant were the ones with the highest concentrations, whereas others were not. Thus, our newly developed lichen-based method provides a tool for tracking the spatial fate of industrially emitted PCDD/Fs regardless of their concentrations. The results showed that the method can be used to validate deposition models for PCDD/F industrial emissions in sites with several sources and characterized by complex orography.