Australian atmospheric lead deposition reconstructed using lead concentrations and isotopic compositions of archival lichen and fungi

Liqin Wu*, Mark Patrick Taylor, Heather K. Handley, Michael Wu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lead concentrations and their isotopic compositions were measured in lichen genera Cladonia and Usnea and fungi genus Trametes from the Greater Sydney region (New South Wales, Australia) that had been collected and archived over the past 120 years. The median lead concentrations were elevated in lichens and fungi prior to the introduction of leaded petrol (Cladonia 12.5 mg/kg; Usnea 15.6 mg/kg; Trametes 1.85 mg/kg) corresponding to early industrial development. During the use of leaded petrol for automobiles in Australia from 1932 to 2002, total median lead concentrations rose: Cladonia 18.8 mg/kg; Usnea 21.5 mg/kg; Trametes 4.3 mg/kg. Following the cessation of leaded petrol use, median total lead concentrations decreased sharply in the 2000s: Cladonia 4.8 mg/kg; Usnea 1.7 mg/kg. The lichen and fungi isotopic compositions reveal a significant decrease in 206Pb/207Pb values from the end of 19th century to the 1970s. The following decades were characterised by lower allowable levels of lead additive in fuel and the introduction of unleaded petrol in 1985. The environmental response to these regulatory changes was that lichen and fungi 206Pb/207Pb values increased, particularly from 1995 onwards. Although the lead isotope ratios of lichens continued to increase in the 2000s they do not return to pre-leaded petrol values. This demonstrates that historic leaded petrol emissions, inter alia other sources, remain a persistent source of anthropogenic contamination in the Greater Sydney region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-687
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Volume208
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Air pollution
  • Contamination sources
  • Leaded petrol
  • Sydney

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