Anthropogenic trace metal contamination has significantly increased and has caused many hazardous consequences for the ecosystems and human health. The Terni basin valley (Central Italy) shows a heavy load of pollutants from industrial activities, while the characteristic orography structure of the valley favours air stagnation, thus limiting air pollution dispersal. The present study conducted in 2014 aimed to determine the concentration of ten metals in five species of butterflies at nine sites in the Terni valley along a 21-km-long transect, including both relatively pristine and industrial areas. At sites where soil contamination was high for a given metal, such as for chromium as in the case of site 4 (the closest to the steel plant) and for lead as in the case of site 2 (contaminated by a firing range), higher levels of contamination were observed in the tissues of butterflies. We found a correlation between soil contamination and the concentration of Cr, Al and Sr in the tissues of some species of butterflies. The sensitivity to contamination differed among the five species; in particular, Coenonympha pamphilus was generally the species that revealed the highest concentrations of all the ten trace metals at the sites closer to the industrial area. It is known that C. pamphilus is a sedentary species and that its host plants are the Poaceae, capable of accumulating high quantities of metals in their rhizosphere region, thus providing the link with soil contamination. Therefore, monitoring the metal concentration levels in butterflies might be a good indicator and a control tool of environmental quality, specifically in areas affected by high anthropogenic pollution loads linked to a specific source.
Pallottini, Matteo;Goretti, Enzo
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