Selective incorporation of rare earth elements by seaweeds from Cape Mondego, western Portuguese coast

Jelena Milinovic, Carlos Vale, Maria João Botelho, Eduarda Pereira, José Sardinha, Bramley J. Murton, João Paulo Noronha

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This study examined the mechanism of incorporation of the rare earth elements (REEs), La, Ce, Nd, Eu, Gd, Tb, Yb, into green (Codium tomentosum, Ulva rigida), red (Gracilaria gracilis, Osmundea pinnatifida, Porphyra sp), and brown seaweeds (Saccorhiza polyschides, Undaria pinnatifida) collected from a single site near the coastline of the Cape Mondego, western Portugal. The concentrations of REEs, Mg, Ca, Al, Fe, Zn, and Cu in the biomasses were determined by inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The species showed differences in their incorporation and fractionation of REEs from the same environment: the sum of REEs was higher in U. rigida, C. tomentosum, G. gracilis, and O. pinnatifida (0.7–1.7 μg g−1) than in Porphyra sp., S. polyschides, and U. pinnatifida (0.1–0.2 μg g−1). Ratios of Ce/Yb ranged from 13 (in S. polyschides) to 103 (in U. rigida), indicating different proportions of light and heavy REEs among species. Good correlations were found between Al and Fe (R2 = 0.98), and between these elements and La, Ce, Nd, Gd (R2 = 0.88–0.97) and Yb (R2 = 0.66–0.71) for all species except C. tomentosum and G. gracilis. Profiles of REE values normalised to average upper-continental crust composition indicated positive anomalies of Eu and Tb that reinforced the singularity of these elements in the REE group. Correlations between the REEs and Al or Fe suggest that detrital terrigenous particles, adhered to seaweed walls, may be an important mechanism for the incorporation of REEs by seaweeds. Different patterns for C. tomentosum and G. gracilis may also be indicative of the higher influence of cell wall composition on REE incorporation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number148860
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • Aluminum
  • Anomalies
  • Cell wall
  • Iron
  • Rare earth elements
  • Seaweeds


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