Barros, C., Pinho, P., Durão, R., Augusto, S., Máguas, C., Pereira, M.J., Branquinho, C. (2015) Disentangling natural and anthropogenic sources of atmospheric sulfur in an industrial region using biomonitors.Environmental Science & Technology, 49, 2222–2229. DOI:10.1021/es505292t (IF2015 5,393; Q1 Environmental Sciences)
Despite reductions in atmospheric sulfur (S) concentrations due to abatement policies in some countries, modeling the dispersion of this pollutant and disentangling anthropogenic sources from natural ones is still of great concern. Lichens have been used as biomonitors of the impacts of S for over 40 years, but their potential as source-tracers of specific sources, including natural ones, remains unexplored. In fact, few attempts have been made to try to distinguish and spatially model different sources of S using lichens. We have measured S concentrations and isotopic values in lichens within an industrial coastal region where different sources of S, natural and anthropogenic, interplay. We detected a prevailing influence of natural sea-originated S that mixed with anthropogenic sources of S. We were then able to disentangle the sources of S, by removing the ocean influence on S isotopic values, enabling us to model the impact of different anthropogenic sources on S deposition and highlighting the potential use of lichens to evaluate the weight of different types of anthropogenic sources.