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Abstract Detail



Bryological and Lichenological Section/ABLS

St Clair, Larry [1], Leavitt, Steven [2], Shrestha, Gajendra [3], St. Clair, Samuel [4].

Breath easier: declining concentrations of atmospheric pollutant elements in lichens from two wilderness areas in western Montana, USA, following decommissioning of smelter operations.

For over thirty years, lichens have been widely used to provide a cost effective tool for assessing spatial and temporal patterns of atmospheric pollution in USDA National Forest lands in the Intermountain Western United States. During this period, a number of policy changes have been implemented to mitigate the environmental impact of atmospheric pollution. In Montana, a number of air quality bio-monitoring sites in the Anaconda-Pintler and Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Areas are in close geographic proximity to recently decommissioned smelters, including the Anaconda copper smelter (1919 – 1981) and the East Helena lead smelter (1888–2001). As part of our ongoing air quality bio-monitoring program, we assessed mean concentrations of potential pollutant elements in sensitive indicator lichens in these two wilderness areas from 2000 – 2009. We observed an overall decline in heavy metal concentration at sites in closest proximity to the decommissioned smelters, from elevated levels in the years 2000-2001 to background levels in 2007-2009. While the decline was most notable at a single site closest to the Anaconda copper smelter, a similar pattern of decline in atmospheric pollutants was found in lichens at sites collected throughout the Gates of the Mountain Wilderness Area (vicinity of East Helena lead smelter) during this same period. We also observed the re-establishment and increase in relative abundance of a number of lichens during this same period, coinciding with the general decline of atmospheric pollutants in sensitive indicator species. The correlation of decreased mean concentrations of potential pollutant elements and re-establishment of some sensitive lichens suggests that decommissioning mining smelters has had a substantial positive impact on biological communities. Continued monitoring will be crucial to assess recovery in this region.

Broader Impacts:


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1 - Brigham Young University, Biology and M.L. Bean Life Science Museum, 290 Mlbm, Provo, UT, 84602, USA
2 - Brigham Young University, Biology and M.L. Bean Life Science Museum, 193 Mlbm, Provo, UT, 84602, USA
3 - M L. Bean Life Science Museum, Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 84602, USA
4 - Brigham Young University, Plant and Wildlife Sciences, 293 widb, Provo, UT, 84602, USA

Keywords:
bio-monitoring
heavy metals
pollution
Rhizoplaca
Letharia.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 7
Location: Ascot/Riverside Hilton
Date: Monday, July 29th, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM
Number: 7008
Abstract ID:618
Candidate for Awards:None


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