J. Phys. IV France
Volume 12, Numéro 10, November 2002
Page(s) 125 - 141

J. Phys. IV France
12 (2002) Pr10-125
DOI: 10.1051/jp4:20020456

The role and fate of trace elements in the environment

C. Barbante1, 2 and W. Cairns2

1  Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Venice, Ca' Foscari, Dorsoduro 2 137, 30123 Venice, Italy
2  Institute for the Dynamics of Environmental Processes-CNR, University of Venice, Ca' Foscari, Dorsoduro 2137, 30123 Venice, Italy

Trace elements are ubiquitous throughout the environment, some are essential for life (e.g. Fe), others are micronutrients (e.g. Se) and others are considered as toxic elements (e.g. As). Levels of these elements in the environment are determined by the local geochemistry and anthropogenic emissions, with implications for human and environmental health. As well as having an effect on land, trace element concentrations can have an effect on oceanic productivity, and are implicated as a factor in climate change. The study of levels of these elements in remote regions and in ice cores has allowed us to begin to understand their biogeochemistry and their effect on a global and climatic scale. However, without advances in clean working techniques and the quantum leaps in instrument sensitivity that have occurred over the last 2-3 decades, none of these studies would have been possible.

© EDP Sciences 2002