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Trace Elements Analysis in Forage Samples from a US Navy Bombing Range (Vieques, Puerto Rico)

Author(s): Arturo Massol-Deyá | Dustin Pérez | Ernie Pérez | Manuel Berrios | Elba Díaz

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
ISSN 1660-4601

Volume: 2;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 263;
Date: 2005;
Original page

Keywords: Vieques | trace elements | military wastes | phytoremediation | tropics | bioindicators

Plants are good environmental sensors of the soil conditions in which they are growing. They also respond directly to the state of air. The tops of plants are collectors of air pollutants, and their chemical composition may be a good indicator for contaminated-areas when it is assessed against background values obtained for unpolluted vegetation. Both, aquatic and terrestrial plants are known to bioaccumulate heavy metals and therefore represent a potential source of these contaminants to the human food chain. An evaluation of heavy metals was conducted from vegetation samples collected at the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facilities (AFWTF) in Vieques, Puerto Rico. In order to understand the potential risks associated to heavy metal mobilization through biological systems, it is first necessary to establish background values obtained from reference locations. This information allows a better interpretation of the significance of anthropogenic factors in changing trace elements status in soil and plants. Since Guánica State Forest is located at a similar geoclimatic zone as the AFWTF, samples at this site were used as a standard reference material and as experimental controls. Both sampling and analysis were conducted as previously described in standardized protocols using acid digestion of dry ashes. Then, levels of heavy metals were obtained by air-acetylene flame detection in an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Our results from the samples taken at the AFWTF indicate mobilization of undesirable trace elements through the marine and terrestrial food web. Since plants naturally remove heavy metals from soils, they could be employed for the restoration of this and similarly contaminated sites.

Tango Jona
Tangokurs Rapperswil-Jona

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