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TitleImpacts of smelter atmospheric emissions on forest nutrient cycles: evidence from soils and tree rings
AuthorDinis, L; Bégin, C; Savard, M MORCID logo; Parent, M
SourceScience of the Total Environment vol. 751, 141427, 2020 p. 1-12,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200299
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf; html
NTS32D/01; 32D/02; 32D/07; 32D/08; 32D/09; 32D/010; 32D/15; 32D/16
Lat/Long WENS -79.0000 -78.0000 49.0000 48.0000
Subjectsenvironmental geology; soils science; geochemistry; Nature and Environment; Science and Technology; Economics and Industry; soil geochemistry; trace element analyses; trace element geochemistry; trace metals; smelters; atmospheric geochemistry; environmental impacts; statistical analyses; strontium geochemistry; manganese geochemistry; magnesium geochemistry; zinc geochemistry; pH patterns; acidity; climate; temperature; Horne smelter; Atmospheric emissions; Forests; Trees; Climate change; cumulative effects
Illustrationsgraphs; location maps; tables; plots
ProgramEnvironmental Geoscience Sources
Released2020 08 08
AbstractAlthough the environmental impacts of metal atmospheric emissions from point sources such as smelter have been extensively studied, very fewstudies have attempted to understand the influence of those emissions on nutrient cycles in the surrounding forests. This study investigates nutrient variations in space and time along with trace metals by statistical analysis of tree-ring series combined with the characterization of element concentrations in soil horizons. The research focuses on the Horne smelter (Rouyn Noranda, Québec, Canada), because it released high atmospheric emissions of metals and gases between 1928 and 1990s. Tree-ring Sr/Mn ratios, and Mn and Sr z-score series reveal that surface soil pH recovered progressively within the 45 km footprint of the smelter since the end of acidic deposition in the late 1970s. The influence of acidic deposition on the current soil pH has become negligible. In other words, element bioavailability and root assimilation have changed through time due to soil acidification at proximal sites. The detrended tree-ring elemental series during the last century also suggest that summer temperatures partly control the elemental bioavailability to trees in soils. Moreover, tree-ring Zn and Mg series appear as key environmental indicators of metal deposition from the smelter. This research confirms previous findings indicating that elemental concentrations in black and white spruce trees may be used to evaluate the potential influence of smelter emissions on nutrient cycles. For a future informed and adaptive management of forests, understanding the potentialmodifications of nutrient regimes caused by anthropogenic contaminations is critical, especially in the context of global warming.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
The purpose of this research is to value data from a former project of the Environmental Geosciences Program. This was the MITE project that highlighted the impact of atmospheric emissions from the Horne smelter in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, on the boreal forest between the 1930s and 1980s. The results of analyses of metal concentration such as lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) and Pb isotopes in tree rings and associated soil horizons showed, among other things, that : (1) metal emissions from the smelter were deposited on the soil up to a distance of approximately 50 km from the smelter, (2) these elements were uptake by tree roots, and (3) the Pb and Cd concentration profiles and Pb isotope ratios of trees were significantly influenced. Using recent knowledge and original statistical approach, our study showed that atmospheric emissions (metals and sulphur dioxide (SO2)) from the Horne smelter also have an impact on the nutrient cycle of the forest. Thanks to the spatio-temporal approach used, it was possible to show that : (1) the zinc and magnesium tree-ring series can be used as environmental indicators of atmospheric deposition, (2) the high levels of SO2 emitted by the smelter between the 1930s and 1980s influenced the bioavailability of soil elements and the relationships between the tree-ring series and climatic conditions, (3) strontium and manganese tree-ring series show the acidification status of soils and show that soils appear to be unaffected by SO2 emissions after the 1970s, (4) in contrast, metal emissions and soil organic matter appear to control the distribution of most nutrients in the soil.

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