eCite Digital Repository

Heavy metal wombats? Metal exposure pathways to bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus) living on remediated tin mine tailings


Penrose, B and MacIntosh, AE and Parbhakar-Fox, A and Smith, LBE and Sawyer, T and D'Agnese, E and Carver, SS, Heavy metal wombats? Metal exposure pathways to bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus) living on remediated tin mine tailings, Science of the Total Environment, 835 Article 155526. ISSN 0048-9697 (2022) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright (2022) Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155526


Rehabilitation of disused mine sites through stabilisation and botanical restoration is ecologically important, but metal transfer pathways to colonising wildlife are often less understood and have never been studied in marsupials. The rehabilitated Royal George tin mine tailings (Tasmania, Australia) and colonisation by bare-nosed wombats (Vombatus ursinus) represented an opportunity to examine potential metal transfer from mine tailings to an herbivorous marsupial. The aim of this study was to examine metal transfer pathways from the mine tailings to wombats, and to determine if wombats are at risk from metal exposure. Concentrations of metals were measured in the tailings substrate, surface water and vegetation, as well as fur samples from a resident wombat, and non-resident (control) wombats. The mineralogy of the tailings is dominated by quartz, muscovite, feldspars, topaz, kaolinite and calcite. Concentrations of several metals were high (exceeding varying health standards) in the tailings (As, Cu, Hg, Pb, Ni, Zn), water (As, Cd, Cu, Zn) and vegetation (As, Cd, Cu, Pb, Mn, Zn). Relative to non-resident wombats, elevated levels of As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Sn were measured in the fur of a resident wombat. Based on modelling of the exposure pathways, consumption of plant material is the most likely metal transfer pathway for As, Cu and Pb, although the risks from ingestion of tailings to this fossorial marsupial should not be discounted. This study is the first to investigate metal exposure pathways to marsupials using rehabilitated mine tailings. Further research is needed to accurately quantify ecological risks and toxicity for wombats and other marsupials native to mining landscapes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:rehabilitation, wombat, mining, ecotoxicology, wildlife
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Ecological applications
Research Field:Bioavailability and ecotoxicology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Rehabilitation or conservation of terrestrial environments
UTAS Author:Penrose, B (Dr Beth Penrose)
UTAS Author:MacIntosh, AE (Miss Amy MacIntosh)
UTAS Author:Parbhakar-Fox, A (Dr Anita Parbhakar-Fox)
UTAS Author:Smith, LBE (Miss Laura Smith)
UTAS Author:Sawyer, T (Ms Terrie Sawyer)
UTAS Author:D'Agnese, E (Ms Erin D'Agnese)
UTAS Author:Carver, SS (Associate Professor Scott Carver)
ID Code:150025
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:Agriculture and Food Systems
Deposited On:2022-05-11
Last Modified:2022-10-20

Repository Staff Only: item control page