Active biomonitoring of airborne major and trace elements in the Belgrade urban area using moss bag technique

The project is financially supported by the city of Belgrade.

May – December 2013

Abstract Monitoring of air quality parameters in the urban area has been obligation regulated by international as well as national legislation. Instrumental monitoring of air quality with high spatial-temporal resolution is practically impossible because it requires expensive equipment and ongoing maintenance of the monitoring stations. However, biomonitoring can draw a reliable picture of air pollution patterns in a much more cost-effective way.

For the purposes of air quality measurements, the “moss bag technique” has been developed, in the Laboratory for Environmental Physics, Institute of Physics, Belgrade, as active biomonitoring of heavy metals. Namely, after collection in anthropogenically unpolluted area, a certain moss species is exposed in polyethylene mesh bag to the location of interest. In general, mosses are primitive plants lacking developed root system, which absorb water and nutrients from the air. So, a qualitative composition of the ambient air is reflected in their internal composition.

The project “Active biomonitoring of heavy metals and other elements in the air of Belgrade using moss bag technique” was implemented, during the period May – December, 2013, in order to get insight into the air quality state of the city of Belgrade. Namely, moss bags were exposed to the atmospheric deposition at 157 sites, within 10 municipalities, for a two month period (June 15 - August 15). Thereafter, the content of 17 heavy metals and other elements, in total, were determined in the moss samples.

According to the obtained results and the heavy metal moss accumulation level, the city zoning was proposed:
• ZONE I - high level: Stari Grad, Palilula and Zemun;
• ZONE II - moderate level: Novi Beograd, Vracar and Rakovica;
• ZONE III - low level: Zvezdara, Savski venac, Voždovac and Cukarica.

However, within each zone, i.e. municipalities, the sites with higher moss element concentrations have been indentified mostly near intensive roads, intersections, interchanges and gas stations. It should be noted that different city zoning could be expected during the winter, i.e. heating season, as a consequence of the increased pollutant emissions from heating plants and individual heating sources as well.

Active moss biomonitoring using moss bag technique is recognized in other countries of Europe and the world as a suitable for monitoring of air pollution. Thus, biomonitoring could be recommended as a method for preliminary testing of the air quality over the wider areas as well as recognition of potential “hotspots” with increased level of pollution. It would lead to optimization of the overall number and position of instrumental monitoring stations.