Relating Injury to the Forest Ecosystem Near Palmerton, PA, to Zinc Contamination From Smelting

  • W. Nelson Beyer
  • Cairn Krafft
  • Stephen Klassen
  • Carrie E. Green
  • Rufus L. Chaney
Article

Abstract

The forest on Blue Mountain, near Lehigh Gap, has been injured by emissions from two historical zinc (Zn) smelters in Palmerton, PA, located at the northern base of the mountain. The uppermost mineral soil and lower litter from sites along a transect, just south of the ridgetop, contained from 64 to 4400 mg/kg Zn. We measured forest metrics at 15 sampling sites to ascertain how forest structure, species composition and regeneration are related to soil concentrations of Zn, the probable principal cause of the injury. Understanding how ecotoxicological injury is related to soil Zn concentrations helps us quantify the extent of injury to the ecosystem on Blue Mountain as well as to generalize to other sites. The sum of canopy closure and shrub cover, suggested as a broadly inclusive measure of forest structure, was decreased to half at approximately 2060 mg/kg Zn (102 mg/kg Sr(N03)2-extractable Zn). Tree-seedling density was decreased by 80% (from 10.5/m2 to 2.1/m2) at a much lower concentration: 1080 mg/kg Zn (59 mg/kg Sr(N03)2-extractable Zn). Changes in species composition and richness were not as useful for quantifying injury to the forest. Phytotoxicity, desiccation from exposure, and a gypsy moth infestation combined to form a barren area on the ridgetop. Liming the strongly acid Hazleton soils at the sites would partially ameliorate the observed phytotoxicity and should be considered in planning restoration.

References

  1. Allen D, Bowersox T (1989) Regeneration in oak stands following gypsy moth defoliations. In: Proceedings of the, central hardwood forest conference, Carbondale, IL, March 5–8, vol 7. Carbondale, IL, pp 67–73Google Scholar
  2. Amiro BD, Courtin GM (1981) Patterns of vegetation in the vicinity of an industrially disturbed ecosystem, Sudbury, Ontario. Can J Bot 59:1623–1639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beyer WN, Storm G (1995) Ecotoxicological damage from zinc smelting at Palmerton, Pennsylvania. In: Hoffman DJ et al (eds) Handbook of ecotoxicology. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p 596Google Scholar
  4. Beyer WN, Miller GW, Cromartie EJ (1984) Contamination of the O2 soil horizon by zinc smelting and its effect on woodlouse survival. J Environ Qual 13:247–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beyer WN, Pattee OH, Sileo L, Hoffman DJ, Mulhern BM (1985) Metal contamination in wildlife living near two zinc smelters. Environ Pollut Ser A Ecol Biol 38:63–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buchauer MJ (1973) Contamination of soil and vegetation near a zinc smelter by zinc, cadmium, copper, and lead. Environ Sci Technol 7:131–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canfield R (1941) Application of the line-interception method in sampling range vegetation. J For 39:388–394Google Scholar
  8. Carline RF, Jobsis GJ (1989) Final report for research work order number 20, effects of heavy metal contamination on aquatic fauna in the vicinity of the Palmerton, Pennsylvania, Smelters. Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PAGoogle Scholar
  9. Chaney RL (1993) Zinc phytotoxicity. In: Robson AD (ed) Zinc in soils and plants. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp 135–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chaney RL, Ryan JA (1994) Risk based standards for As, Pb. and Cd in urban soils. Dechema, Frankfurt, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  11. Chaney RL, Beyer WN, Gifford CH, Sileo L (1988) Effects of zinc smelter emissions on farms and gardens at Palmerton, PA. Trace Subst Environ Health 22:263–280Google Scholar
  12. Drohan JR, Sharpe WE (1997) Long-term changes in forest soil acidity in Pennsylvania, USA. Water Air Soil Pollut 95:299–311Google Scholar
  13. Elzinga CL, Salzer DW, Willoughby JW (1998) Measuring and monitoring plant populations. BLM technical reference 1730-1. Bureau of Land Management, Denver, COGoogle Scholar
  14. Gilliam FS, Roberts MR (2003) Interactions between the herbaceous layer and overstory canopy of eastern forests, a mechanism for linkage. In: Gilliam FS, Roberts MR (eds) The herbaceous layer in forests of eastern North America. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p 198Google Scholar
  15. Gleason HA, Cronquist A (1991) Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada, 2nd edn. The New York Botanical Garden, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  16. Gunson DE, Kowalczyk DF, Shoop CR, Ramberg CF Jr (1982) Environmental zinc and cadmium pollution associated with generalized osteochondrosis, osteoporosis, and nephrocalcinosis in horses. J Am Vet Med Assoc 180:295–299Google Scholar
  17. Halma R, Oplinger CS (2001) The Lehigh valley. The Pennsylvania State University Press, State College, PAGoogle Scholar
  18. Helmke PA, Salam AK, Li Y (1997) Measurement and behavior of indigenous levels of the freehydrated cations of Cu, Zn and Cd in the soil-water system, chap 8. In: Prost R (ed) Proceedings of the third international conference biogeochemistry of trace elements: contaminated soils, May, 1985. Paris,France, CD-ROM publication by INRA, Versailles Cedex, FranceGoogle Scholar
  19. Jordan MJ (1975) Effects of zinc smelter emissions and fire on a chestnut-oak woodland. Ecology 56:78–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jordan MJ, Lechevalier MP (1975) Effects of zinc-smelter emissions on forest soil microflora. Can J Microbiol 21:1855–1865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Korhonen L, Korhonen KT, Rautiainen M, Stenberg P (2006) Estimation of forest canopy cover: a comparison of field measurement techniques. Silva Fenn 40:577–588Google Scholar
  22. Lappin JL (1973) An estimate of the composition of the forests of the early 1900’s which covered the Northwest slopes of Blue Mountain near Palmerton, Penn. Masters thesis. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJGoogle Scholar
  23. Liebhold AM, Gottschalk KW, Luzader ER, Mason DA, Bush R, Twardus DB (1997) Gypsy moth in the United States: an atlas. Northeastern forest experiment station general technical report NE-233. United States Department of Agriculture, United States Forest Service, Radnor, PAGoogle Scholar
  24. LiY M, Chaney RL, Siebielec G, Kerschner BA (2000) Response of four turfgrass cultivars to limestone and biosolids compost amendment of a zinc and a cadmium contaminated soil at Palmerton, PA. J Environ Qual 29:1440–1447CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marquis DA (1987) Assessing the adequacy of regeneration and understanding early development patterns. In: Proceedings, managing northern hardwoods: a silvacultural symposium, Syracuse, NY, June 23–25, 1986, p 143Google Scholar
  26. McWilliams WH, Stout SL, Bowersox TW, McCormick LH (1995) Adequacy of advance tree-seedling regeneration in Pennsylvania’s forest. North J Appl For 12:187–191Google Scholar
  27. Moser WK, Hansen M, McWilliams W, Sheffield R (2006) Oak composition and structure in the eastern United States. In: Proceedings, fire in Eastern Oak Forests: delivering science to land managers, Columbus, OH, November 15–17, 2005, p 49Google Scholar
  28. Mueller-Dombois D, Ellenberg H (1974) Aims and methods of vegetation ecology. Wiley, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  29. Nash EH (1972) Effects of effluents from a zinc smelter on mosses. Doctoral thesis. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJGoogle Scholar
  30. Nash TH III (1975) Influence of effluents from a zinc factory on lichens. Ecol Monogr 45:183–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oyler JA (1988) Remediation of metals-contaminated site near a zinc smelter using sludge/fly ash amendments: herbaceous species. Tr Sub Environ Health 22:306–320Google Scholar
  32. Palmerton Natural Resources Trustee Council (2007, January 30) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. United States Department of Commerce and United States Department of the Interior, USAGoogle Scholar
  33. Schreffler AM, Sharpe WE (2003) Effects of lime, fertilizer, and herbicide on forest soil and soil solution chemistry, hardwood regeneration, and hardwood growth following shelterwood harvest. For Ecol Manage 177:471–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Siebielec G, Chaney RL, Kukier U (2007) Liming to remediate Ni contaminated soils with diverse properties and a wide range of Ni concentration. Plant Soil 299:117–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sileo L, Beyer WN (1985) Heavy metals in white-tailed deer living near a zinc smelter in Pennsylvania. J Wildl Dis 21:289–296Google Scholar
  36. Storm GL, Yahner RH, Bellis ED (1993) Vertebrate abundance and wildlife habitat suitability near the Palmerton zinc smelters, Pennsylvania. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 25:428–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Storm GL, Fosmire GJ, Bellis ED (1994) Persistence of metals in soil and selected vertebrates in the vicinity of the Palmerton zinc smelters. J Environ Qual 23:508–514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Strojan CL (1978a) Forest leaf litter decomposition in the vicinity of a zinc smelter. Oecologia 32:203–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Strojan CL (1978b) The impacts of zinc smelter emissions on forest litter arthropods. Oikos 31:41–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. United States Environmental Protection Agency (1979) Evaluation of runoff and discharges from New Jersey Zinc Company, Palmerton, Pennsylvania. EPA-330/2–79-022. National Enforcement Investigations Center, Denver, COGoogle Scholar
  41. United States Environmental Protection Agency (1987) Palmerton zinc superfund site, Blue Mountain Project (April 1987). Region 3. Philadelphia, PAGoogle Scholar
  42. Wickland DE (1989) Vegetation of heavy metal contaminated soils in North America. In: Shaw J (ed) Heavy metal tolerance in plants: evolutionary aspects. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, p 39Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Nelson Beyer
    • 1
  • Cairn Krafft
    • 1
  • Stephen Klassen
    • 2
  • Carrie E. Green
    • 3
  • Rufus L. Chaney
    • 3
  1. 1.Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterUnited States Geological SurveyLaurelUSA
  2. 2.Pennsylvania Ecological Services Field OfficeUnited States Fish and Wildlife ServiceState CollegeUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization LaboratoryUnited States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research ServiceBeltsvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations