Douglas fir trees and associated soils were sampled from the slopes of a small (??? 4 km2) drainage basin in northeastern Washington to investigate the biogeochemical response to locally uraniferous groundwater. Uranium is preferentially incorporated in needles and twigs compared to larger branches or the trunk. The U concentration in needle ash ranges from 0.2 to 5.8 ??g g-1 (ppm) and shows no correlation with the U concentration in associated soils. Rather, the distribution of anomalously uraniferous douglas fir (>1.0??g g-1 U in needle ash) appears to be controlled by observed or readily inferred pathways of near-surface groundwater movement in the drainage. These pathways include: (1) general downslope movement of subsurface runoff; (2) increased flux of near-surface groundwater near the toe of an alluvial fan; and (3) emergence of uraniferous (100-150 ng ml-1 [ppb] groundwater in the vicinity of a slope spring. The data also indicate the presence of near-surface uraniferous groundwater along a structurally controlled zone that parallels the north-south strike of the valley, and that includes the slope spring. The results suggest that biogeochemical sampling may be used to supplement more direct, but more limited, measurements of groundwater quality and flow regime in areas of near-surface contaminated groundwater. ?? 1987.
Additional publication details
Response of douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) to uraniferous groundwater in a small glaciated drainage, Northeastern Washington State