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Trace metals play key roles in life – all are toxic above a threshold bioavailability, yet many are essential to metabolism at lower doses. It is important to appreciate the natural history of an organism in order to understand the interaction between its biology and trace metals. The countryside and indeed the natural history of the British Isles are littered with the effects of metals, mostly via historical mining and subsequent industrial development. This fascinating story encompasses history, economics, geography, geology, chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, ecology, ecotoxicology and above all natural history. Examples abound of interactions between organisms and metals in the terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine, coastal and oceanic environments in and around the British Isles. Many of these interactions have nothing to do with metal pollution. All organisms are affected from bacteria, plants and invertebrates to charismatic species such as seals, dolphins, whales and seabirds. All have a tale to tell.