Agnieszka Stojanowska This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.1, Maciej Górka2, Anita Urszula Lewandowska This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.3, Kinga Wiśniewska3, Magdalena Modelska4, David Widory4 

1 Department of Environmental Protection, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, 50-370 Wroclaw, Poland
2 Institute of Geological Sciences, University of Wroclaw, 50-205 Wroclaw, Poland
3 Institute of Oceanography, University of Gdansk, Division of Marine Chemistry and Environmental Protection, 81-378 Gdynia, Poland
4 Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada

Received: April 22, 2021
Revised: August 5, 2021
Accepted: September 7, 2021

 Copyright The Author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are cited.

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Stojanowska, A., Górka, M., Lewandowska, A.U., Wiśniewska, K., Modelska, M., Widory,.D. (2021). Can Abies alba Needles Be Used as Bio-passive Samplers to Assess Air Quality? Aerosol Air Qual. Res.


  • Tree needles are low cost passive samplers and easy to implement.
  • Abies alba needles allow identifying sources of aerosol contamination.
  • Anthropogenic activities generate 13C-enriched aerosols.


Bio-passive samplers have proved to be good alternate to assess air quality in regions where the use of active samplers is not technically feasible. Here, we tested the potential for Abies alba (silver fir) needles to be used as reliable bio-passive samplers. As these evergreen coniferous trees do not lose their needles in winter these are representative of a full year period. Needle samples were collected in 2013 from 20 different locations within the Holy Cross National Park (Świetokrzyski Park Narodowy, Holy Cross Voivodship, Poland). Both needles and the aerosols deposited on their surfaces were analyzed for their δ13C. Additionally, total carbon (TC), elemental carbon (EC) and organic carbon (OC) were determined only in surface-impacted aerosols using thermo-optical method. The overall objective of our study was to evaluate the possibility to distinguish bio-organic aerosols (crushed needles) from anthropogenically derived aerosols. The highest aerosol mass concentration (4.6 ± 2.4 mg g-1) was observed in samples with the longest exposure time, while the shortest exposure times yielded the lowest ones (1.7 ± 0.7 mg g-1). Aerosols that were enriched in 13C, indicating the impact of human activities, were located close to inhabited areas, at highly elevated points and in places situated outside the park. Our results also prove that one-year-old needles are the most reliable isotope bioindicators. We ultimately recommend that Abies alba needles can be used in future air quality monitoring programs, especially since this method is low cost and easy to implement.

Keywords: Bioindicators, Abies alba needles, δ13C, Aerosols

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