Title

Limitations to Plant Growth in Ecosystems Contaminated by Smelter Fallout

Presenter Information

Guillermo Barillas

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Copper smelting, the process of heating ore to produce industrial copper, can severely impact local plant communities because of continual environmental deposition of heavy metals from emissions. This deposition of heavy metals is toxic to plants and causes a significant loss of organic matter. With the loss of organic matter, soils become deficient in the nutrients required for growth and reproduction. For example, the effects of copper smelting in Anaconda, Montana, an area in which smelting stopped over 35 years ago, can still be seen on its ecosystem today. To contribute to the understanding of ecosystem repair in smelter fallout areas, we assessed the effects of nutrient addition treatments on plant growth. The treatments including addition of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium and micronutrients (Kf.t), an organic amendment (Sustane), and an untreated control (Control) as single amendments, as well as combinations (NP, NKf.l, PKf.l, NPKf.l) to allow assessment of co-limitation (n=10 treatments). All treatments were applied to plots and were seeded in May. I measured plant growth response by collecting biomass samples and percent cover in July and September. I found significant differences in both biomass and percent cover among nutrient addition treatments. Plants in the plots treated with Sustane had 1 Ox more biomass (1.88g) and 10% more cover (12.8%) than the control (0.13g and 2.53%). Plants in the NPKf.l, which was the only other treatment which had a significant effect, averaged 11.61% total cover. These findings suggest that it is critical to add organic amendments in restoration treatments in ecosystems impacted by smelter fallout and that the type of amendment is important.

Category

Life Sciences

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Apr 17th, 2:20 PM Apr 17th, 2:40 PM

Limitations to Plant Growth in Ecosystems Contaminated by Smelter Fallout

UC 330

Copper smelting, the process of heating ore to produce industrial copper, can severely impact local plant communities because of continual environmental deposition of heavy metals from emissions. This deposition of heavy metals is toxic to plants and causes a significant loss of organic matter. With the loss of organic matter, soils become deficient in the nutrients required for growth and reproduction. For example, the effects of copper smelting in Anaconda, Montana, an area in which smelting stopped over 35 years ago, can still be seen on its ecosystem today. To contribute to the understanding of ecosystem repair in smelter fallout areas, we assessed the effects of nutrient addition treatments on plant growth. The treatments including addition of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium and micronutrients (Kf.t), an organic amendment (Sustane), and an untreated control (Control) as single amendments, as well as combinations (NP, NKf.l, PKf.l, NPKf.l) to allow assessment of co-limitation (n=10 treatments). All treatments were applied to plots and were seeded in May. I measured plant growth response by collecting biomass samples and percent cover in July and September. I found significant differences in both biomass and percent cover among nutrient addition treatments. Plants in the plots treated with Sustane had 1 Ox more biomass (1.88g) and 10% more cover (12.8%) than the control (0.13g and 2.53%). Plants in the NPKf.l, which was the only other treatment which had a significant effect, averaged 11.61% total cover. These findings suggest that it is critical to add organic amendments in restoration treatments in ecosystems impacted by smelter fallout and that the type of amendment is important.