Heavy metal profiles in limpets and algae on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa
Heavy metal pollution is an increasing threat to the marine environment and is a major health concern. Both marine limpets and algae have been employed as biomonitors elsewhere in the world, but there are few or no data for these taxa along the South African coast. We investigated heavy metal concentrations in the tissues of selected limpet and algae species sampled at four sites on the southeast coast of South Africa (Silaka, Hluleka, Mthatha and Mbhashe), and determined whether there was any relationship between heavy metal concentrations in the limpets and their algae food sources as evidenced by the trophic transfer factor (TTF). Samples were collected in July 2019 and the tissues were digested following normal protocols. Heavy metals were detected using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES). Significant differences in metal concentrations were observed among the algae species. The soft tissues of limpets from Silaka had the highest heavy metal concentrations, and samples from Mthatha had the lowest, with only mercury (Hg) occurring in high concentrations. Metal concentrations in soft tissues were generally 10-times higher than in shell tissues and differed between lower- and upper-shore species. Cadmium (Cd) biomagnified (TTF > 1) in all limpet species at all sites. Cd, arsenic (As), lead (Pb) and Hg measured in our study were above the maximum limits set by the South African Department of Health. This study suggests that the use of limpet and algae species as bioindicators is feasible since they are widely distributed and can accumulate a wide range of heavy metals.