Environmental Pollutants in the Mediterranean Sea: Recent Trends and Remediation Approaches

Potential Ecological Impacts of Rare Earth Elements in the Marine Environment: A Baseline for Future Research

Author(s): Ahmed Mandour *

Pp: 85-102 (18)

DOI: 10.2174/9789815179064123010007

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Rare earth elements (REE) have become a strategic commodity of contemporary economies due to their various uses in the technological, smart, and renewable energy industries. The boom of their uses resulted in an increased influx to the marine environment either as a result of mining or industrial discharges, or from the disposal of solid wastes, atmospheric fallout for military tests of smart weapons, and remobilization from the sediments. Although sediments are the main reservoir of REE in the marine environment, and their auspicious normalization patterns are useful geochemical tracers, it has been found that anthropogenic contributions influence REE’s natural occurrence. This indeed has raised concerns about the potential ecological impacts of REE on the marine biota and in turn on human health. The chapter gives some insights into the sources and potential ecological impacts of REE while revealing the need for future research and the knowledge gap about the REE and their ecological impacts as a group and as individual elements, as well as some potential solutions to the increased anthropogenic influx of REE to the marine environment. The potential ecological impacts of REE influx to the marine environment constitute both their bioavailability and their toxicity. Predicted ecological impacts on the marine biota may be similar to other trace metals, sharing analogous chemical characteristics. Nevertheless, whether LREE or HREE are more toxic is debatable, and their physiological and cytological effects on different organisms are still under investigation. This prompts the need for a new understanding of REE’s ecological impacts by focusing on influx rates, ecotoxicity, and mitigation of ecological impacts.

Keywords: Aquatic, Anthropogenic contribution, Aquatic, Biota, Bioavailability, Bioconcentration, Ecological impacts, Ecotoxicity, Health, Lanthanides, Nanooxides marine, Pollution, Pollution mitigation, Remobilization, Rare earth elements, Sediments.

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