Authors:Booth et alAbstract:The chemical conditions in the planet forming regions of protoplanetary discs remain difficult to observe directly. Gas accreting from the disc on to the star provides a way to measure the elemental abundances because even refractory species are in an atomic gaseous form. Here we compare the abundance ratios derived from UV lines probing T Tauri accretion streams to simple models of disc evolution. Although the interpretation of line ratios in terms of abundances is highly uncertain, discs with large cavities in mm images tend to have lower Si emission. Since this can naturally be explained by the suppressed accretion of dust, this suggests that abundance variations are at least partially responsible for the variations seen in the line ratios. Our models of disc evolution due to grain growth, radial drift and the flux of volatile species carried as ices on grain surfaces, give rise to a partial sorting of the atomic species based on the volatility of their dominant molecular carriers. This arises because volatiles are left behind at their snow lines while the grains continue to drift. We show that this reproduces the main features seen in the accretion line ratio data, such as C/N ratios that are a few times solar and the correlation between the Si to volatile ratio with mm-flux. We highlight the fact that developing a more robust linkage between line ratios and abundance ratios and acquiring data for larger samples has the potential to cast considerable light on the chemical history of protoplanetary discs.