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Biomonitoring of rare earth elements in Southern Norway: Distribution, fractionation, and accumulation patterns in the marine bivalves Mytilus spp. and Tapes spp.


Growing extraction and usage of rare earth elements and yttrium (REY) for medical and industrial applications has resulted in increased discharges into the marine environment. Using Mytilus spp. Mussels and Tapes spp. clams as bioindicator organisms, we analyzed 15 REY in soft tissues of specimens collected at two potentially polluted sites in Southern Norway: in the vicinity of an industry producing gadolinium-based MRI contrast agents (GBCAs) (Lindesnes) and in an industrially-affected fjord (Porsgrunn). The spatial distribution of REY and shale-normalized fractionation patterns were determined to assess the potential anthropogenic contribution of REY at the sites. At both sites, the REY fractionation pattern in soft tissue was characterized by enrichment of light rare earth elements (LREE) over heavy rare earth elements (HREE), while also displaying negative cerium and small positive gadolinium (Gd) anomalies. LREEs contributed to over 80% of the total REY concentrations, with increasing relative enrichment following higher total REY. Gd anomalies remained conserved in most sites despite significant differences in total REY; however, a high Gd anomaly (Gd/Gd* = 4.4) was found downstream of the GBCA industry spillwater outlet, indicating biotic uptake of excess anthropogenic Gd at this site. Total REY concentrations in clams in Porsgrunn were one order of magnitude higher than in mussels in Lindesnes. This may be attributable to freshwater influences in Porsgrunn, where clams collected closer to the river mouth had significantly higher total REY concentrations. This study constitutes the first assessment of REY concentrations in marine bivalves in Norway and can provide useful information for future biomonitoring studies on REY contamination.


Academic article


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 301236





  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • SINTEF Ocean / Climate and Environment
  • The University Centre in Svalbard



Published in

Environmental Pollution (1987)







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