Contamination and toxicity in a subtropical estuarine protected area influenced by former mining activities
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The present paper reviews information about sources, fate, concentrations and toxicity of the metals found in the Cananéia-Iguape Estuarine Complex (CIEC), which is within a Ramsar site, the Cananéia-Iguape-Peruíbe Environmental Protected Area (CIP-PA). The main sources of metals to CIEC are the former mining sites located upstream, on the Ribeira de Iguape River basin. Pb is reported as the element of primary concern, but Cu, Zn, Cr and As have been detected in sediments and biota. In general, higher levels of metals are associated with muddy sediments, in depositional portions of the estuary. Metals appear to be bioavailable, as sediment toxicity has been reported, together with bioaccumulation and sub-chronic effects in fish and invertebrates. Areas with higher concentrations of metals and more severe sediment toxicity are not necessarily the closest to the sources. The worse conditions occur in depositional sites, which depend on rainfall in catchment basin and hydrological processes in the estuary. In fact, during the flooding season the deposition of particles seems to move southward, carrying metals to the southern portion of the CIEC. The results suggest that the protection objectives are not being fully achieved, demanding actions to ensure control of both internal and external sources of contaminants for the CIEC. Additionally, new enforcements and actions are required to control the contamination sources of mining residues located upstream. The current review highlights that estuarine and marine protected areas may be impacted by contaminants released from distant sources, and this situation should be properly addressed in management plans.