Mammalian hair as an accumulative bioindicator of metal bioavailability in Australian terrestrial environments.Sci Total Environ. 2009 May 15; 407(11):3588-96.ST
The current study represents the first investigation of the suitability of marsupial and eutherian mammalian hair as indicator tissue for metal exposure and accumulation within contaminated Australian terrestrial ecosystems. A soil metal contamination gradient was established across 22 sites at increasing distances from a decommissioned Lead/Zinc smelter in NSW, Australia. Within each site, soil and small mammal populations were sampled. An Australian native marsupial, the insectivorous Brown Antechinus, Antechinus stuartii: Dasyuridae, and introduced rodents, the omnivorous Brown or Norway Rat, Rattus norvegicus: Muridae and the Black Rat, Rattus rattus: Muridae were assessed for hair concentrations of Cadmium (Cd), Copper (Cu), Lead (Pb) and Zinc (Zn). Metals in soil were most elevated at sites within close proximity to the smelter, with soil metal concentrations decreasing with distance from the smelter. The non-essential metals Pb and Cd were accumulated in hair, both metals exhibiting positive linear relationships with environmental exposure (soil metal concentrations). When the variables of weight and snout-vent length were considered, no further contribution in terms of explaining the variability in hair Cd or Pb was observed for all species examined. The essential metals Cu and Zn were regulated in hair, remaining similar across the metal contamination gradient. A significant negative correlation between snout-vent length and hair Cu concentration was found for the Brown Rat; greater hair Cu concentrations were found in smaller individuals of this species. Accumulation of Pb to hair was similar among species while concentrations of Cd in Brown Rat hair were higher than both Black Rat and Brown Antechinus hair. As each of the three aforementioned species exhibit similar bioaccumulation relationships for Pb, we suggest that sampling hair from introduced rodents (pest species) may provide a suitable proxy for the assessment of Pb bioavailability for a range of small mammals within Australian urban remnants.