Throughout history, ancient human societies exploited mineral resources all over the world, even in areas that are now protected and considered to be relatively pristine. Here, we show that past mining still has an impact on wildlife in some French protected areas. We measured cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc concentrations in topsoils and wood mouse kidneys from sites located in the Cévennes and the Morvan. The maximum levels of metals in these topsoils are one or two orders of magnitude greater than their commonly reported mean values in European topsoils. The transfer to biota was effective, as the lead concentration (and to a lesser extent, cadmium) in wood mouse kidneys increased with soil concentration, unlike copper and zinc, providing direct evidence that lead emitted in the environment several centuries ago is still bioavailable to free-ranging mammals. The negative correlation between kidney lead concentration and animal body condition suggests that historical mining activity may continue to play a role in the complex relationships between trace metal pollution and body indices. Ancient mining sites could therefore be used to assess the long-term fate of trace metals in soils and the subsequent risks to human health and the environment.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 21, 2018
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