Samples of four-wing saltbush were collected from the Colorado State University Intensive Oil Shale Revegetation Study Site test plots in the Piceance basin, Colorado. The test plots were constructed to evaluate the effects of processed oil shale geochemistry on plant growth using various thicknesses of soil cover over the processed shale and/or over a gravel barrier between the shale and soil. Generally, the thicker the soil cover, the less the influence of the shale geochemistry on the element concentrations in the plants. Concentrations of 20 elements were larger in the ash of four-wing saltbush growing on the plot with the gravel barrier (between the soil and processed shale) when compared to the sample from the control plot. A greater water content in the soil in this plot has been reported, and the interaction between the increased, percolating water and shale may have increased the availability of these elements for plant uptake. Concentrations of boron, copper, fluorine, lithium, molybdenum, selenium, silicon, and zinc were larger in the samples grown over processed shale, compared to those from the control plot, and concentrations for barium, calcium, lanthanum, niobium, phosphorus, and strontium were smaller.
Concentrations for arsenic, boron, fluorine, molybdenum, and selenium-- considered to be potential toxic contaminants--were similar to results reported in the literature for vegetation from the test plots. The copper-to-molybdenum ratios in three of the four samples of four-wing saltbush growing over the processed shale were below the ratio of 2:1, which is judged detrimental to ruminants, particularly cattle. Boron concentrations averaged 140 ppm, well above the phytotoxicity level for most plant species. Arsenic, fluorine, and selenium concentrations were below toxic levels, and thus should not present any problem for revegetation or forage use at this time.
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USGS Numbered Series
Effects of processed oil shale on the element content of Atriplex cancescens