Trace element contamination and availability in the Fildes Peninsula, King George Island, Antarctica†
The Ardley Cove area (located on the Maxwell Bay shoreline, Fildes Peninsula, King George Island, Antarctica) is characterized not only by its high biodiversity, but also by a high density of scientific stations, making it potentially one of the most impacted areas of Antarctica. In order to assess the source, contamination levels, distribution and availability of several trace elements (Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Pb, Cd and Hg) in and around Maxwell Bay, soil and seawater samples were collected. Soil samples were also collected in the study reference site near the Bellingshausen Dome area, as it lies far from centers of human activity and associated infrastructure. Enrichment factors (EFs) and sequential extractions were also used to assess the degree of contamination and availability of the trace elements under investigation. The results obtained in this study pointed to the existence of several contamination hotspots, mainly related to high levels of Zn, Pb, Cd, Cr and Ni. Comparison of the contaminant distribution patterns with data from earlier studies allowed the identification of anthropogenic sources. Use of the EF approach and sequential extractions confirmed these findings. In particular, higher extraction proportions were obtained for Zn and Pb (68 and 71%, respectively), which were also the same elements where the highest EFs were determined. The results obtained in this study clearly point to human impact on the natural environment in this region of Antarctica and we recommend the implementation of appropriate contamination control and remediation methods.