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Title: The impact of uranium mine contamination of soils on plant litter decomposition
Author: Freitas, Ana C.
Rodrigues, Dina
Rocha-Santos, Teresa A. P.
Gonçalves, Fernando
Duarte, Armando C.
Pereira, Ruth
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Springer
Abstract: As part of a tier 3 risk assessment performed for a uranium mining area, the ability of soils with different degrees of metal contamination to degrade organic matter was assessed using litter bags filled with leaves of Quercus robur, Pinus pinaster, Salix atrocinerea, or a mixture of the three species. Litter bags were exposed at different sites within the mine area and at a reference area for 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Biomass loss, nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), carbon (C) and total fatty acid, total phenolic, and ergosterol contents were assessed for each litter bag retrieved from the field. The decomposition of litter at each site seemed to be governed by a complex interaction of many different factors. After 12 months of exposure, leaves from the most contaminated sites were distinguishable from those from the reference site. In the reference site, the greatest percentages of biomass loss were attained by Q. robur and P. pinaster leaves. These species displayed the second highest and the lowest C-to-N ratios, respectively. In addition, the high P content of the litter from these two species may have favored microbial colonization. The results suggest that the decomposition of P. pinaster and Q. robur leaves may have been favored at the reference site by the high abundance of both species at this site and the subsequent adaptation of the microbial community to their litter. Our study shows that different species of leaf litter should be used to discriminate between contaminated sites with different levels of contamination.
Peer review: yes
DOI: 10.1007/s00244-014-0035-5
ISSN: 0090-4341
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