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Environmental contamination by heavy metals and fluoride in the Saeftinge salt marsh (The Netherlands) and its effect on sheep
Baars, A.J.; van Beek, H.; Spierenburg, Th.J.; Beeftink, W.G.; Nieuwenhuize, J.; Pekelder, J.J.; Boom, J. (1988). Environmental contamination by heavy metals and fluoride in the Saeftinge salt marsh (The Netherlands) and its effect on sheep. Vet. q. 10(2): 90-98
In: Veterinary Quarterly. Kluwer: The Hague; Bilthoven; Dordrecht; Utrecht; Lancaster; London; Boston. ISSN 0165-2176, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 140853 [ OMA ]

Authors  Top 
  • Baars, A.J.
  • van Beek, H.
  • Spierenburg, Th.J.
  • Beeftink, W.G.
  • Nieuwenhuize, J.
  • Pekelder, J.J.
  • Boom, J.

Abstract
    The Saeftinge salt marsh in the Westerschelde estuary (southwestern part of the Netherlands) represents one of the very few tidal brackish marsh ecosystems in Western Europe. From May 1983 to May 1985 the local pollution of this marsh with metals and fluoride was investigated. Samples from soil and vegetation were analysed monthly for cadmium, lead, copper, zinc, manganese, iron, and fluoride. The amount of these substances in the soil appeared to be related to both the percentage of clay particles and organic matter in the soil and to the frequency of tidal submergences. In vegetation, the pollutants clearly showed a seasonal variation. Adherent clay, deposited on the plants during submergences, contributed considerably to the total amount of these elements. Sheep grazing in the marsh were investigated for renal and faecal excretion of these elements, but no relation between these samples and the seasonal variation in vegetation was found. Presumably sheep consumed vegetation selectively, avoiding the more contaminated plants. Regular clinical inspections of the sheep revealed no signs of acute or chronic intoxication. The organs of sheep that died during the investigation showed increased levels of cadmium in the liver and kidney, and iron in the liver, but not enough to cause alarm. Fluoride found in the rib material, although slightly increased, did not indicate fluorosis. In conclusion, contamination with metals and fluoride, as observed in the salt marsh, apparently does not impair the health of locally grazing sheep. This may be due to selective consumption behaviour of the sheep, their stabling during the winter, limited biological availability of the elements studied, and a sheep management adapted to the local circumstances.

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