Copper and lead concentrations in salt marsh plants on the Suir Estuary, Ireland

E. J. Fitzgerald, J. M. Caffrey, S. T. Nesaratnam, P. McLoughlin

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Concentrations of Cu and Pb were determined in the roots and shoots of six salt marsh plant species, and in sediment taken from between the roots of the plants, sampled from the lower salt marsh zone at four sites along the Suir Estuary in autumn 1997. Cu was mainly accumulated in the roots of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous species. Pb was mainly accumulated in the roots of monocotyledons, while dicotyledons tended to accumulate Pb in the shoots. In the case of Aster tripolium there was a clear differentiation in the partitioning of Pb within the plant, between low and high salinity sites. At the low salinity sites, Pb accumulated only in the roots while at the high salinity sites there was a marked translocation to the shoots. The increase in Pb concentrations in roots and shoots of A. tripolium was accompanied by a concomitant decrease in sediment concentrations of Pb. This inverse correlation between sediment and plant concentrations of Pb was also recorded for Spartina spp. and Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani but in the case of these species the roots contained higher concentrations of Pb regardless of salinity levels. These differences in accumulation of Cu and Pb in various salt marsh species, and the influence of salinity on the translocation of Pb in A. tripolium in particular, should be taken into account when using these plants for biomonitoring purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-74
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2003


  • Aster tripolium
  • Metals
  • Plants
  • Salt marsh
  • Soil


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