European Commission, Directorate General for Research & Innovation

Guidelines for the use of mosses and soils in monitoring contaminant fallout

In 1999 Italy’s Environmental Protection Agency (ANPA) published a paper on the methods to be used in the case of mosses and soils. After nearly a decade, a review is advisable. The attached Guidelines take account of numerous experiments in the environmental field and include a short description of bryophyte biology. A great many pollutants are present in our environment. In addition to traditional gaseous air contaminants such as CO, СO2, SO2, O3 and NOx, a number of other substances, produced mainly by human activity, may be present in solid, liquid and gaseous form. Notable among these substances, which are constantly rising in number, quantity and importance, are persistent inorganic contaminants, radionuclides, dioxins, phuranes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs).

Distributed across the various environmental compartments, these substances pose grave problems to plants, animals and man in so far as their accumulation may have consequences that are both unforeseeable and difficult to evaluate. A study on heavy metals in the various environmental compartments showed the decisive role played by human activity in the global cycle of these elements. The main sources of anthropic pollution are the chemical, engineering and metalworking industries, power stations, domestic heating installations and the internal combustion engine [3].

In addition to the pollution levels recorded in densely populated and industrial areas, consideration must also be given to the dispersion of contaminants in the air and their transportation beyond national borders, possibly to remote areas devoid of direct anthropic pressure (e.g. Antarctica). In view of the quantities of pollutants and the area concerned, evaluating air pollution and contaminant fallout requires new monitoring instruments to work alongside and, in some cases, replace, traditional methods.

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