In the Parma Functional Urban Area, hydro-geo-ecology was investigated through an interdisciplinary approach, with emphasis on the shallow aquifer system. The study pointed out that domestic wells and fontanili are both fed by shallow groundwater affected by PCE and nitrate contamination, upgradient of the rural area located north of Parma City. Moreover, Folsomia candida tests suggested the possibility that other types of contaminants (not analysed in this study) can affect the shallow groundwater. Nowadays, PCE concentrations in the city centre are slightly higher than the limit set by law. Moreover, PCE aerobic biodegradation can be due to the local microbial community and then an effective natural attenuation can be expected along the groundwater flow pathway. These results suggest a very low risk for human health, linked to the groundwater consumption in the rural area north of Parma City. Conversely, no forecasts can be made at present about the possible impact of low PCE concentrations on the aquatic ecosystem observed at the fontanili. Concerning nitrate contamination, the higher concentrations detected in some wells and fontanili suggest a high risk for both human health and aquatic ecosystems. In a wider context, thanks to the interdisciplinary approach that combines successfully well-established investigation methods, the present study allows a better knowledge of the hydro-geo-ecological behaviour of groundwater-dependent ecosystems. At the same time, through purpose-designed experimental investigations and simulation models, this approach could be used as a sort of guideline useful in studying such complex environmental systems.
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