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137Cs, 40K, 238Pu, 239+240Pu and 90Sr in biological samples from King George Island (Southern Shetlands) in Antarctica

By J. W. Mietelski, M. A.. Olech, K. Sobiech-Matura, B. J. Howard, P. Gaca, M. Zwolak, S. Blazej and E. Tomankiewicz


There are few data reported on radionuclide contamination in Antarctica. The aim of this paper is to report 137Cs, 90Sr and 238,239+240Pu and 40K activity concentrations measured in biological samples collected from King George Island (Southern Shetlands, Antarctica), mostly during 2001–2002. The samples included: bones, eggshells and feathers of penguin Pygoscelis papua, bones and feathers of petrel Daption capense, bones and fur of seal Mirounga leonina, algae Himantothallus grandifolius, Desmarestia anceps and Cystosphaera jacquinotii, fish Notothenia corriceps, sea invertebrates Amphipoda, shells of limpet Nacella concina, lichen Usnea aurantiaco-atra, vascular plants Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis, fungi Omphalina pyxidata, moss Sanionia uncinata and soil. The results show a large variation in some activity concentrations. Samples from the marine environment had lower contamination levels than those from terrestrial ecosystems. The highest activity concentrations for all radionuclides were found in lichen and, to a lesser extent, in mosses, probably because lichens take up atmospheric pollutants and retain them. The only significant correlation (except for that expected between 238Pu and 239+240Pu) was noted for moss and lichen samples between plutonium and 90Sr. A tendency to a slow decrease with time seems to be occurring. Analyses of the activity ratios show varying fractionation between various radionuclides in different organisms. Algae were relatively more highly contaminated with plutonium and radiostrontium, and depleted with radiocesium. Feathers had the lowest plutonium concentrations. Radiostrontium and, to a lesser extent, Pu accumulated in bones. The present low intensity of fallout in Antarctic has a lower 238Pu/239+240Pu activity ratio than that expected for global fallout

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s00300-008-0449-5
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