I am working on a Sci-Fi/ Fantasy world called Atterra which is an very alternate version of earth that has been artificially injected with metals and materials from the asteroid belt. Long story short after a cataclysm (just over 2000 years in the past) that almost wiped out all life from the world, the gods of the world took resources from the belt and put them in the upper crust. This was done as the ecosystems of the planet were rebuilt in the hopes of keeping humanity out of the hollows where the last remnants of the entities that caused the cataclysm exits. These metals are now mainly concentrated in the rocky mountains and the new concentration of elements are as follows:

  • Average nitrogen concentration in the soil is 3 - 5% percent instead of Earth's 1-5%
  • Average iron concentration in Atterran soil is 15-55% (With 25%) being more common
  • Iron ore, gold. silver, zinc, copper, aluminum- 4x as common in the crust as on earth
  • Cobalt -27x earth
  • Nickel- 4x earth
  • Ruthenium- 405x earth
  • Rhodium- 90x earth
  • Palladium- 22x earth
  • Iridium- 270x earth
  • Platinum- 98x earth

After doing some research on the toxicity of these metals I found so far that in their base and pure forms they are not toxic unless they're made into compounds. The iron and nitrogen concentrations of the soil will make for greater plant growth on the planet compared to earth since it's higher but well within the tolerable range of plants.

The question I have specifically is how these higher concentrations of metals in the soil and rock affect the ecosystems of the world? Would it mean more trace metals in the rivers and water/ predators having more of these metals build up in their bodies like T-rex with Chromium in the Cretaceous? So far I have found no evidence of this in my researching of these metals, and I have some specific flora to help mitigate metal contamination by sucking excess metal and minerals in the soil into their trunks and bodies. But I can't help but feel like I'm missing something. So once again:

  • Would the higher concentration of these metals in the crust and mountains have any real or significant impacts on plants or animals in the environment? Or would it just be the case of animals having trace amounts of these metals build up in their flesh like fish in the ocean and no real effect besides that?
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    $\begingroup$ The bioaccumulation of metals in plants has recently become a hot topic in science both for remediation of pollution and even potentially for mining. In some cases the sap is like rubber tree plants where the sap or latex with nickel in it is brightly colored green. In animals I think you also would have accumulation and would expect some adverse effects for some metals but not others with it being chemistry dependent. $\endgroup$
    – UVphoton
    Jun 14, 2022 at 12:18

2 Answers 2


First things first, some of those metals you mention are highly radioactive so there is a chance of big deposits of radioactive metals poisoning the land and making it unnable to sustain human life. Have that in mind when you plan the enviroment.

Secondly, there is a possibility of so much "extra" metal will alter the electromagnetic field of Atterra since planet´s cores are made of heavy metals (like iron) that made their way there at the process of planet´s formation (solidification/cool down). But take this with a grain of salt, it´s been long since I studied planetarian formation.

Lastly, you justify the presence of so much metal at the surfice of the planet due to divine intervention. Perhaps you could jump over many of the problems by a literal deux ex machina but might be a good idea explore the true motivations of these gods of Atterra. Why they did it? How they did it? Are there any "forbiden" areas mortals aren´t alowed?

I hope this is of any help. Good luck.

  • $\begingroup$ Which of those metals are 'highly radioactive'? They all have known unstable isotopes, but that holds for, well, all elements. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 14, 2022 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ Ruthenium, Rhodium, Palladium and Iridium are radioactive on their natural forms even in their most basic compounds. $\endgroup$ Jun 14, 2022 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ The longest-lived ruthenium isotope has a half-life of less than a year, so is not naturally occurring in ruthenium ores. There is, of course, some yield as a byproduct of fission. Similarly rhodium has isotopes with half-lives of a few years, iridium makes it out to a few hundred years, and palladium has one that makes it to a little more than half a million years so actually has a trace abundance naturally. Your statement does not hold water. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 14, 2022 at 17:38

Partial answer, while I think about this some more.

The Earth's crust is up to 80 km thick, depending on the type of crust and it's locality. Generally oceanic crust is about 20 km thick and continental crush is about 50 km thick.

The location of the metals within the crust will matter. The deeper within the crust, the lesser the effect it will have on the biology of flora and fauna.

The issue I need to ponder is what effect will the metals have on the mass of the planet. I'm assuming the diameter of the planet will be similar to the diameter of the Earth. An increased mass will affect the overall density of the planet, it's gravity and also its escape velocity.

The escape velocity will affect the composition of the atmosphere. This could affect life forms on the planet, as could gravity.

As mentioned in another answer, some of the metals are radioactive. If they are deep and away from water sources there will be no issues.

Biochemically, additional amounts of iron, gold and aluminium present would have little effect. Biologically, gold is fairly inert. Life forms will only absorb as much iron, copper and zinc as they need.

Cobalt and nickel can be toxic in low doses, so this will have a detrimental effect on life forms, with the risk to fauna suffering from heavy metal poisoning and associated internal organ damage.

The other issue is how evenly distributed will the metals be. Localized large concentrations near the surface could be toxic waste lands.

Marine life would have similar issues if such deposit were on the sea bed causing high concentrations of metals within localized sea water.


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