Geochemical variability of soils and biogeochemical variability of plants in the Piceance Basin, Colorado

Professional Paper 1134-E
By: , and 



Geochemical baselines for native soils and biogeochemical baselines for plants in the Piceance basin provide data that can be used to assess geochemical and biogeochemical effects of oil-shale development, monitor changes in the geochemical and biogeochemical environment during development, and assess the degree of success of rehabilitation of native materials after development. Baseline values for 52 properties in native soils, 15 properties in big sagebrush, and 13 properties in western wheatgrass were established. Our Study revealed statistically significant regional variations of the following properties across the basin: in soil&-aluminum, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, sodium, nickel, phosphorus, lead, scandium, titanium, vanadium, zinc, organic and total carbon, pH, clay, dolomite, sodium feldspar, and DTPA-extractable calcium, cadmium, iron, potassium, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, yttrium, and zinc; in big sagebrush-barium, calcium, copper, magnesium, molybdenum, sodium, strontium, zinc, and ash; and in western wheatgrass-boron, barium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, strontium, zinc, and ash. These variations show up as north-south trends across the basin, or they reflect differences in elevation, hydrology, and soil parent material. Baseline values for properties that do not have statistically significant regional variations can be represented by geometric means and deviations calculated from all values within the basin. Chemical and mineralogical analyses of soil and chemical analyses of western wheatgrass samples from Colorado State University's experimental revegetation plot at Anvil Points provide data useful in assessing potential effects on soil and plant properties when largescale revegetation operations begin. The concentrations of certain properties are related to the presence of topsoil over spent shale in the lysimeters. In soils, calcium, fluorine, lithium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, strontium, carbonate and total carbon, and DTPA-extractable boron, copper, iron, magnesium, and nickel have lower concentrations in topsoil than in the spent oil shale; whereas, silicon, titanium, ytterbium, clay, quartz, and DTPA-extractable potassium have greater concentrations in the topsoil than in the spent oil shale. In western wheatgrass, molybdenum has a lower concentration in grasses growing on the topsoil than in grasses on the spent oil shale; whereas, barium, calcium, manganese, strontium, zinc, and ash have greater concentrations in grasses growing on the topsoil than on the spent oil shale. When compared to baseline values, soils in the revegetation plot are significantly higher in concentrations of lead, zinc, organic and total carbon, and DTP A-extractable cadmium, iron, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, and zinc. Whereas, western wheatgrass grown within the revegetation plot has concentrations which fall within the baseline values established in the regional study. The equations used in predicting concentrations of elements in plants from native and altered sites are cumbersome because of the large number of variables required to adequately predict expected concentrations and are of limited use because many explained only a small proportion of the total variation.
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geochemical variability of soils and biogeochemical variability of plants in the Piceance Basin, Colorado
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 1134
Chapter E
DOI 10.3133/pp1134E
Edition -
Year Published 1986
Language ENGLISH
Description p. E1-E46
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