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Title: Illegal mining impacts on freshwater Potamonautid crab in a subtropical Austral highland biosphere reserve.
Authors: Dalu, Tatenda.
Dube, Timothy.
Dondofema, Farai.
Cuthbert, Ross N.
University of Mpumalanga
University of the Western Cape
University of Venda
Queen's University Belfast
Keywords: Potamonautid crabs.;Illegal mining.;Artisanal mining.;Habitat degradation.;Mercury.
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Elsevier
Abstract: The contamination of surface water by heavy metals, especially mercury, has become a global issue. This problem is particularly exacerbated in rivers and reservoirs situated in developing nations. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the potential contamination effects of illegal goldmining activities on freshwater Potamonautid crabs and to quantify the mercury levels in 49 river sites under three land use classes: communal areas, national parks and timber plantations.We used a combination of field sampling, multivariate analysis and geospatial tools to quantify mercury concentrations in relation to crab abundances. Illegal mining was prevalent throughout the three land use classes, with mercury (Hg) being detected in 35 sites (71.5 %). The mean range of Hg concentrations detected across the three–land uses was: communal areas 0–0.1 mg kg−1, national parks 0–0.3 mg kg−1 and timber plantations 0–0.06 mg kg−1. Mean Hg geo–accumulation index values showed strong to extreme contamination in the national park, with strong contamination observed for communal areas and timber plantations; furthermore, the enrichment factor for Hg concentrations in the communal and national park areas showed extremely high enrichment. Two crab species (i.e., Potamonautes mutareensis, Potamonautes unispinus)were found in the Chimanimani area,with P. mutareensis being the dominant taxon in the region across all the three land use areas. The national parks had higher total crab abundances than communal and timber plantation areas. We observed negative and significant K, Fe, Cu and B effects on total Potamonautid crab abundances, but surprisingly not for other metals such as Hg which might reflect their widespread pollution. Thus, illegal mining was observed to impact the river system, having a serious impact on the crababundance and habitat quality. Overall, the findings of this study underscores the need to address the issue of illegal mining within the developing world as well as to establish concerted effort from all stakeholders (e.g., government, mining companies, local communities, and civil society groups) to help protect the less charismatic and understudied taxa. In addition, addressing illegalmining and protecting understudied taxa aligns with the SDGs (e.g. SDG 14/15-life below water/life on land) and contributes to global efforts to safeguard biodiversity and promote sustainable development.
Description: Published version
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.165251
Appears in Collections:Journal articles

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