, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 271-282

The influence of heavy metals upon the growth of sitka-spruce in South Wales forests

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Summary

Experiments on sitka-spruce seedlings grown in acidic peaty gley soils under green-house conditions, where the soils where doped with increasing amounts of Cd, Cu and Pb up to maximum levels of metal added of 16 ppm, 32 ppm and 400 ppm respectively, showed that the levels of Cd and Pb in shoots and roots increased with increasing levels in the soil, whereas levels of copper appeared to be independent. The addition of these three metals to the soils did not influence the uptake of other heavy metals, or of the nutrients potassium or calcium. Increases in the shoot cadmium levels significantly reduced the yields of the plant shoots. However, the plant yields were only affected by the highest level of lead that was added to the soil (400 ppm Pb) and unaffected by all the copper treatments (0–32 ppm Cu in the soil).

The lengths of the sitka-spruce roots were reduced when cadmium and lead levels in the soil exceeded certain threshold concentrations (2.5 ppm total Cd, where 0.3 ppm was extractable with 0.5 M acetic acid; and 48 ppm total Pb, where 1.7 ppm was extractable). However, root lengths were not reduced by copper. This was probably related to the fact that copper appears to be relatively unavailable in the type of soil used, as only 1.1. ppm Cu was extractable from a total of 32 ppm Cu added. Root branching was apparently reduced by increases in the soil levels of cadmium, copper and lead. The roots of some control plants had symbiotic mycorrhizal associations (4 out of 19 plants), whereas the roots of all the plants grown in the soils with added heavy metals did not develop these.