Ecosystems Human interactions Infographic

Sartorius, Andrea // How trace metals distribute throughout ecosystems


I created this infographic for the general adult public to illustrate how trace metals from derelict mines distribute throughout the surrounding ecosystem. Many people live near abandoned mine sites, but are unaware of the potential health risks. Using the current findings of my study, I highlight how trace metals disperse across environments and accumulate at high concentrations within sediment, grasses, wildlife, and domestic animals. I also include the risks of consuming food products produced on trace metal contaminated land.


Abandoned metal mine sites contain high concentrations of toxic trace metals, such as lead, cadmium, and zinc

These trace metals travel downstream and distribute throughout the environment…

Posing a toxic threat to animals

Chicken – Average blood lead concentration is more than 7 times higher than the lead toxicity threshold
Mouse – Average bone lead concentration is more than 80 times higher than that of control mice
Horse – Developed a lead-associated respiratory disease, and had tissue lead levels indicative of toxicity

And contaminating food products

Egg – Eating more than three eggs a day risks adverse health effects
Rhubarb – Eating more than two rhubarb stems a day risks adverse health effects

Environmental information

  • Mine waste contains up to 70 times more lead, cadmium, and zinc than urban soils
  • Lead and zinc sediment concentrations exceed thresholds above which adverse health effects are expected
  • While lead and zinc sediment concentrations are halved 4 km downstream, they still exceed the expected adverse health effects threshold
  • Grasses growing in fields downstream of mine sites have lead concentrations that exceed safe animal forage thresholds

Andrea Sartorius

Andrea’s research interest is how ecosystems, and specifically small mammals, survive and adapt in human-modified environments.

She obtained an undergraduate degree in Biology from Pomona College, in California, USA, and received an MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution, and Conservation at UCL. During this time, Andrea studied how vertebrates are impacted by human-caused environmental changes, such as frequent fires or urbanization.

Andrea is currently working on her PhD studying the effects of trace metal contamination from derelict mines on the surrounding ecosystem.

Andrea’s Envision profile


Twitter: @aisartorius

Organisation: University of Nottingham; work partly funded by Natural Resources Wales