Heavy metals and aquatic bryophytes : accumulation and their use as monitors
An experimental study was made of accumulation and loss of heavy metals by the aquatic moss Rhynchostegium riparioides and of the processes involved. The information gained were used to assess the effectiveness of this species as a monitor. Growth of Rhynchostegium continued throughout the year with peaks in spring and autumn. There were positive correlations between growth and water and air temperatures. Strong differences in growth rates in the four streams were not related to nutrient or heavy metal concentrations. Various patterns of mesh bag were tested as containers for transplanted Rhynchostegium to be used as a monitor. No significant differences in accumulation by moss were found between boulders or bags, or in accumulation with different patterns of bags. Accumulation was reduced slightly at the centre of bags packed with large quantities of moss. The physiology of Zn accumulation was also studied. A large part of accumulation (> 70%) in the early stages (< 12 h) was in a form readily exchanged for competing cations such as Ca and Ni; over longer time periods there was significant accumulation into a more tightly bound compartment. There was no evidence that uptake into this latter compartment was under the direct control of the plant's metabolism. There was differential accumulation of Cr(III) and Cr(VI) in laboratory experiments; during a case study it was possible to "predict" the speciation of Cr in the water by the concentrations accumulated by the moss. These results confirm that bryophytes are useful as monitors of heavy metal pollution in a wide range of circumstances. A range of such applications are outlined, along with recommendations for standard methods for using moss bags.