Accumulation of 12 trace elements by transplanted aquatic bryophytes (Hygrohypnum ochraceum) was determined at 13 sites in the Rio Grande and tributary streams in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Quality Assessment Program. The purposes of the study were to determine the spatial distribution of trace elements in relation to land-use practices in the upper Rio Grande Basin, compare accumulation rates of metals in bryophytes at sites contaminated by trace elements, and evaluate transplanted aquatic bryophytes as a tool for examining the bioavailability of trace elements in relation to concentrations in water and bed sediment. Concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn in bryophytes, water, and bed sediment were significantly higher at sites that receive drainage from mining areas than at sites near agricultural or urban activities. Concentrations of most trace elements were lower in a tributary stream below an urban source than at sites near mining or agricultural use. Concentrations of Cu and Zn in bryophytes correlated with concentrations in water and bed sediment. In addition, bryophyte concentrations of As, Cd, and Pb correlated with concentrations in bed sediment. Transplanted bryophytes can provide an indication of bioavailability. Rates of accumulation were related to the magnitude of ambient trace-element concentrations; maximal uptake occurred during the first 10 d of exposure. Trace-element concentrations in transplanted bryophytes could potentially be used to predict water and sediment concentrations that represent an integration of conditions over short to intermediate lengths of time, rather than instantaneous conditions as measured using water samples.
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Trace-element accumulation by Hygrohypnum ochraceum in the upper Rio Grande Basin, Colorado and New Mexico, Usa