Land management of bracken needs to account for bracken carcinogens: A case study from Britain

Lars Holm Rasmussen, Eric Donnelly, Bjarne W. Strobel, Peter E. Holm, Hans Christian Bruun Hansen

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    Bracken ferns are some of the most widespread ferns in the World causing immense problems for land managers, foresters and rangers. Bracken is suspected of causing cancer in Humans due to its content of the carcinogen ptaquiloside. Ingestion of bracken, or food and drinking water contaminated with ptaquiloside may be the cause. The aim of this study was to monitor the content of ptaquiloside in 20 bracken stands from Britain to obtain a better understanding of the ptaquiloside dynamics and to evaluate the environmental implications of using different cutting regimes in bracken management. The ptaquiloside content in fronds ranged between 50 and 5790 mg/g orresponding to a ptaquiloside load in the standing biomass of up to 590 mg/m2 in mature fronds. Ptaquiloside was also found in the underground rhizome system (11e657 mg/g) and in decaying litter (0.1 - 5.8 mg/g). The amount of ptaquiloside present in bracken stands at any given time is difficult to predict and did not show any correlations with edaphic growth factors. The content of ptaquiloside turned out to be higher in fronds emerging after cutting compared to uncut fronds. Environmental risk assessment and bracken management must therefore be based on actual and site specific determinations of the ptaquiloside content. Care must be taken to avoid leaching from cut ferns to aquifers and other recipients and appropriate precautionary measures must be taken to protect staff from exposure to bracken dust.
    TidsskriftJournal of Environmental Management
    Sider (fra-til)258-266
    StatusUdgivet - 2015


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