A comparison of rare earth elements' (REE) atmospheric signatures in various ecosystem compartments was carried out in the vicinity of the Lesní potok catchment (LP), Czech Republic. REE signatures were investigated from 2004 to 2006 in rainwater, throughfall, tree foliage (Picea abies, Fagus sylvatica) and lichens (Hypogymnia physodes) for selected elements (Al, Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Si). REE concentrations increased in the following sequences: bulk precipitation < beech throughfall < spruce throughfall and spruce needles < beech leaves ≪ lichens.

The crustal origin of REEs in bulk precipitation was confirmed by its high correlation with lithogenic elements, by the seasonal variation in REE concentrations and by comparison of REE distribution patterns of the upper continental crust, local granites and soil. Enrichment factors calculated in relation to bulk precipitation and normalized to Na enabled elimination of the influence of dry deposition and wash-out. Higher REE concentrations in throughfall were then identified to be the result of the wash-out of dry deposition, while REEs were found to bioaccumulate in vegetation, although at a much smaller rate than the essential elements K, Mn, P, Mg and Ca.

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