Concentrations of metals in sediments and soils deposited along the floodplain of the Clark Fork River, within the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Deer Lodge, Montana, USA, have exceeded maximum background concentrations in the United States for most metals tested. As a result of mining and smelting activities, portions of the Deer Lodge Valley, including the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, have received National Priority List Designation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Using a series of plant germination tests, pH measurements, and metal analyses, this study investigated the toxicity of soils from floodplain 'slicken' areas, bare spots devoid of vegetation, along the Clark Fork River. The slicken soils collected from the Grant-Kohrs Ranch were toxic to all four plant species tested. The most sensitive endpoint in the germination tests was root length and the least sensitive was emergence. Considering emergence, the most sensitive species was the resident grass species Agrostis gigantea. The sensitivities were reversed when root lengths were examined, with Echinochloa crusgalli showing the greatest sensitivity. Both elevated concentrations of metals and low pH were necessary to produce an acutely phytotoxic response in laboratory seed germination tests using slicken soils. Moreover, pH values on the Grant-Kohrs Ranch appear to be a better predictor of acutely phytotoxic conditions than total metal levels.
Additional publication details
Phytotoxicity of floodplain soils contaminated with trace metals along the clark fork river, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Deer Lodge, Montana, United States