Thalli of the lichen Parmotrema austrosinense were collected in their natural non-polluted habitat and transplanted to 18 monitoring sites within an area of the western region of Catamarca province (Argentina) where fruticose lichens are absent. This region is going through a reactivation phase, owing to large-scale mining development and agricultural expansion. The concentrations of 25 elements were determined in the thalli by instrumental neutron activation analysis. In general, the elemental accumulation of P. austrosinense was low when transplanted to the study area. By means of factor analysis it could be inferred that elements of soil and rock have influence over air quality in the study zone. The presence of uranium and arsenic in two separate factors was related to natural sources of these elements present in the region.
Keywords: air quality, arsenic, environmental pollution, lichens, load factor, neutron activation analysis, trace elements, uranium, air pollution, Argentina