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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Trace element levels in mollusks from clean and polluted coastal marine sites in the Mediterranean, Red and North Seas

  • Barak Herut,
  • Nurit Kress,
  • Edna Shefer and
  • Hava Hornung
Helgoland Marine Research53:90530154.10152


The trace element contamination levels in mollusks were evaluated for different marine coastal sites in the Mediterranean (Israeli coast), Red (Israeli coast) and North (German coast) Seas. Three bivalve species (Mactra corallina, Donax sp, and Mytilus edulis) and two gastropod species (Patella sp.and Cellana rota) were sampled at polluted and relatively clean sites, and their soft tissue analyzed for Hg, Cd, Zn, Cu, Mn and Fe concentrations. Representative samples were screened for organic contaminants [(DDE), polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)] which exhibited very low concentrations at all sites. In the Red Sea, the gastropod C. rota showed low levels of Hg (below detection limit) and similar Cd concentrations at all the examined sites, while other trace elements (Cu, Zn, Mn, Fe) were slightly enriched at the northern beach stations. Along the Mediterranean coast of Israel, Hg and Zn were enriched in two bivalves (M. corallina and Donax sp.) from Haifa Bay, both species undergoing a long-term decrease in Hg based on previous studies. Significant Cd and Zn enrichment was detected in Patella sp. from the Kishon River estuary at the southern part of Haifa Bay. In general, Patella sp. and Donax sp. specimens from Haifa Bay exhibited higher levels of Cd compared to other sites along the Israeli Mediterranean coast, attributed to the enrichment of Cd in suspended particulate matter. Along the German coast (North Sea) M. edulis exhibited higher concentrations of Hg and Cd at the Elbe and Eider estuaries, but with levels below those found in polluted sites elsewhere.

Key words Trace elementsMollusksContamination levelsCoastal marine sites