The Use of Snow, Soil and Lichens as Biomonitors of Contaminants in Airborne Particulate Matter in North-Eastern European Russia

  • Tony R. WalkerEmail author
Part of the Environmental Science and Engineering book series (ESE)


Trace metal composition of snow-melt filter residues, top-soils and lichens were determined along transects through industrial towns in the Pechora Basin: Vorkuta, Inta and Usinsk. Elevated concentrations of deposition elements associated with alkaline coal fly-ash in snow-melt filter residues and soils and to a lesser extent lichens were found within 20–30 km of Vorkuta and Inta. Atmospheric deposition in the vicinity of Vorkuta and Inta, added significantly to the soil contaminant loading as a result of fly-ash fallout. Elemental concentrations in soils within 20–30 km of Vorkuta do not reflect current deposition rates, but instead, reflect an historical pollution legacy, when coal mining activity peaked in the 1960s. Evidence of zinc deposition around Vorkuta was detected in lichens and was largely attributed to local deposition of alkaline fly-ash from coal combustion. The results using the lichen Cladonia arbuscula as a bioindicator of airborne contamination around Vorkuta are consistent with previous studies suggesting that they are useful bioindicators for airborne trace metals. There was little evidence of anthropogenic metal deposition in snow, soils and lichens around the gas and oil production town of Usinsk that had no coal fired power generating plant.


Suspended Solid Coal Combustion Airborne Particulate Matter Komi Republic Cement Factory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This paper is dedicated to our late colleague and talented scientist, Dr. Galina Mazhitova. Special thanks to Dr. P.D. Crittenden and Dr. S.D. Young for help with this study. Dr. H. Zhang for processing ICP-MS samples. Help with logistics was provided by colleagues at the Institute of Biology Komi Science Centre (IB-KSC), Syktyvkar, especially Dr. V.I. Ponomarev. Dr. P. Kuhry, for co-ordinating the TUNDRA project, which was supported by the Environment and Climate Programme of the EC (contract number: ENV4-CT97-0522).


  1. Getsen MV, Stenina AS, Khokhlova LG, Rusnova GV, Ivanov MA, Maksimov AA, Patova EN (1994) The condition of the environment of the Bolshezemelskaya tundra on the Vorkuta industrial region territory. Narodnoe Khosajatvo Republiki Komi 3:68–75 (in Russian with English Abstract)Google Scholar
  2. IPCC (2007) Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. In: Pachauri RK, Reisinger A (eds) IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, pp 104Google Scholar
  3. Jalkanen L, Mäkinen A, Häsänen E, Juhanoja J (2000) The effects of large anthropogenic particulate emissions on atmospheric aerosols, deposition and bioindicators in the eastern Gulf of Finland region. Sci Total Environ 262:123–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Karjalainen TP, Habeck JO (2004) When ‘The environment’ comes to visit: local environmental knowledge in the far north of Russia. Environ Val 13:167–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Larssen T, Carmichael GR (2000) Acid rain and acidification in China: the importance of base cation deposition. Environ Pollut 110:89–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Mahalingam S (2004) Energy and security in a changing world. Strateg Anal 28:249–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mikkola K (1996) A remote sensing analysis of vegetation damage around metal smelters in the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Int J Remote Sens 17:3675–3690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Nash TH III (1989) Metal tolerance in lichens. In: Shaw AJ (ed) Heavy metal tolerance in plants: evolutionary aspects. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp 119–131Google Scholar
  9. Nimis PL, Castellello M, Perotti M (1990) Lichens as bioindicators of heavy metal pollution: a case study at La Spezia (N Italy). In: Markert B (ed) Plants as biomonitors. VCH, Weinheim, New York, pp 265–284Google Scholar
  10. Pryde PR (1991) Environmental management in the Soviet Union. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Reimann C, Niskavaara H, Caritat PD, Finne TE, Äyräs M, Chekushin V (1996) Regional variation of snow-pack chemistry in the vicinity of Nikel and Zapoljarnij, Russia, northern Finland and Norway. Sci Total Environ 182:147–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Reimann C, Halleraker JH, Kashulina G, Bogatyrev I (1999) Comparison of plant and precipitation chemistry in catchments with different levels of pollution on the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Sci Total Environ 243/244:169–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Reimann C, Banks D, de Caritat P (2000) Impacts of airborne contamination on regional soil and water quality: the Kola Peninsula, Russia. Environ Sci Technol 34:2727–2732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Riget F, Asmund G, Aastrup P (2000) The use of lichen (Cetraria nivalis) and moss (Rhacomitrium languginosum) as monitors for atmospheric deposition in Greenland. Sci Total Environ 245:137–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Rovinsky F, Pastukhov B, Bouyvolov L, Burtseva L (1995) Present day state of background pollution of the natural environment in the Russian Arctic in the region of the Ust-Lena Reserve. Sci Total Environ 160/161:193–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Shaw GE, Shaw JA, Shaw RA (1993) The snows of interior Alaska. Atmos Environ 27A:2091–2096Google Scholar
  17. Solovieva N, Jones VJ, Appleby PG, Kondratenok BM (2002) Extent, environmental impact and long-term trends in atmospheric contamination in the Usa Basin of East-European Russian Arctic. Water Air Soil Poll 139:237–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. State of the environment of the Komi Republic (1998) Reports of the Ministry of Environmental Resources and Conservation, Komi Republic, Syktyvkar, 1992–1998Google Scholar
  19. Toutoubalina OV, Rees GW (1999) Remote sensing of industrial impact on Arctic vegetation around Noril’sk, northern Siberia: preliminary results. Int J Remote Sens 20:2979–2990CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Vilcheck GE, Tishkov AA (1997) Usinsk oil spill. In: Crawford RMM (ed) Disturbance and recovery in Arctic lands. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, pp 411–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Vinogradova AA (2000) Anthropogenic pollutants in the Russian Arctic atmosphere: sources and sinks in spring and summer. Atmos Environ 34:5151–5160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Virtanen T, Mikkola K, Patova E, Nikula A (2002) Satellite image analysis of human caused changes in the tundra vegetation around the city of Vorkuta, north-European Russia. Environ Pollut 120:647–658Google Scholar
  23. Walker TR (2005) Comparison of anthropogenic metal deposition rates with excess soil loading from coal, oil and gas industries in the Usa Basin, NW Russia. Polish Polar Res 26:299–314Google Scholar
  24. Walker TR (2008) Zinc accumulation in lichens due to industrial emissions around Vorkuta, northeast European Russia. Polish Polar Res 28:141–147Google Scholar
  25. Walker TR, Young SD, Crittenden PD, Zhang H (2003a) Anthropogenic metal enrichment of snow and soil in north-eastern European Russia. Environ Pollut 121:11–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Walker TR, Crittenden PD, Young SD (2003b) Regional variation in the chemical composition of winter snowpack and terricolous lichens in relation to sources of acid emissions in the Usa river basin, northeast European Russia. Environ Pollut 125:401–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Walker TR, Crittenden PD, Young SD, Pystina T (2006a) An assessment of pollution impacts due to the oil and gas industries in the Pechora Basin, north-eastern European Russia. Ecol Indicat 6:369–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Walker TR, Habeck O, Karjalainen TP, Virtanen T, Solovieva N, Jones V, Kuhry P, Pomonorov VI, Mikkola K, Nikula A, Patova E, Crittenden PD, Young SD, Ingold T (2006b) Perceived and measured levels of environmental pollution: interdisciplinary research in the subarctic lowlands of northeast European Russian. Ambio 35(5):220–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Walker TR, Crittenden PD, Dauvalter VA, Jones V, Kuhry P, Loskutova O, Mikkola K, Nikula A, Patova E, Pomonorov VI, Pystina T, Rätti O, Solovieva N, Stenina A, Virtanen T, Young SD (2009) Multiple indicators of human impacts on the environment in the Pechora Basin, north-eastern European Russia. Ecol Indicat 9:765–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ziegler CE (1987) Environmental policy in the USSR. The University of Massachusetts Press, AmherstGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BiologyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Dillon Consulting LimitedHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations