Webster 2021 Trace elements in African savannahs

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A non-invasive assessment of essential trace element utilization at different trophic levels in African wildlife

posted on 26.05.2021, 07:42 by Andrea WebsterAndrea Webster, Nigel BennettNigel Bennett, André Ganswindt

Defining background concentrations of essential and potentially toxic trace elements in the environment is beneficial for the determination of nutrient deficiencies/hotspots and for the management of pollution. Typical approaches to risk assessment are often invasive, logistically complicated and can be costly. This dataset, together with an optimised method for Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) quantification facilitated the simultaneous evaluation of 20 trace elements: alkaline earth elements - barium (Ba) and strontium (Sr); transition metals - cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg) molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni) and vanadium (V); basic metals - aluminium (Al), lead (Pb) and tin (Sn); metalloids - antimony (Sb), arsenic (As) and boron (B), and the non-metal; selenium (Se). The study forms the foundation for the non-invasive and simultaneous assessment of environmental and animal species occupying protected areas.

To evaluate trace element concentrations in arid and mesic protected areas within South Africa’s savannah biome, sediment, and corresponding vegetation samples were collected around water points within Tswalu Kalahari Reserve (TKR), Northern Cape Province (S 27°29’61” and E 22°39’43”) and the Manyeleti Nature Reserve (MNR), Mpumalanga Province (S 24°64’80” and E 31°52’63”), South Africa from April to June and July to September 2019 respectively. In addition, fresh faecal material was collected from a range of 21 different terrestrial mammal species (17 comparable species between sites) occupying herbivore, omnivore and carnivore trophic levels.


Department of Science and Technology and National Research foundation SARChI chair of Mammalian Behavioural Ecology and Physiology, South Africa (GUN number 64756).

The University of Pretoria Post-graduate Scholarship Programme

The Tswalu Foundation, South Africa



Mammal Research Institute