Air quality monitoring in many urban areas is based on sophisticated and costly equipment to check for the respect of environmental quality standards, but capillary monitoring is often not feasible due to economic constraints. In such cases, the use of living organisms may be very useful to complement the sparse data obtained by physico-chemical measurements. In this study, the bioaccumulation of selected trace elements (Al, As, Cd, Ce, Cr, Cu, Fe, Ni, Pb, S, Sb, Zn) in lichen samples (Evernia prunastri
) transplanted for three months at an urban area of Central Italy was investigated to assess the main environmental contaminants, their sources, and the fluxes of element depositions. The results pinpointed Cu and Sb as the main contaminants and suggested a common origin for these two elements from non-exhaust sources of vehicular traffic, such as brake abrasion. Most study sites were, however, found to be subjected to low or moderate environmental contamination, and the lowest contamination corresponded to the main green areas, confirming the important protective role of urban forests against air pollution. Ranges of estimated mean annual element deposition rates in the study area were similar or lower than those reported for other urban areas.
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