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Uranium and arsenic accumulation in plants: the impact of abandoned uranium mines on the plant community on the Navajo Nation

Mares, Marissa Karina (2022) Uranium and arsenic accumulation in plants: the impact of abandoned uranium mines on the plant community on the Navajo Nation. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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Abstract

The focus of my study is to examine the impacts of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation by quantifying the levels of uranium and arsenic present in the plant community that are near or around the abandoned mines. The motivation behind this project comes from the concern of livestock owners and community members of Cove Arizona, located on the Navajo Nation. The community members are concerned about the levels of uranium and arsenic that are resulting from the uranium mines, this concern was explored by collecting water, soil, plant and animal tissue samples. Due to the legacy of uranium mining, community members want to know how this is impacting their food source, as well as the food source of the livestock that are being raised in this community. In collaboration with the community and livestock owners in Cove, Arizona, Diné College, Northern Arizona University, University of New Mexico and Montana State University – Billings, this overall project looked at the impacts of uranium mining and the resulting abandoned uranium mines within the Cove watershed. In this study, five species of flowering plants were investigated: Lupinus argenteus, Artemisia tridentata, Bromus tectorum, Rhus trilobata, and Quercus gambelii. These five species cover a range of life histories of plants including short-lived annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Through the findings of this research, we hope to gain a better understanding of how uranium and arsenic are being translocated as well as quantifying the levels of uranium and arsenic. While the levels of uranium and arsenic were found to be at low levels, there is variation between species and sample site locations. In addition to the low levels of uranium and arsenic, the outliers for reported levels of uranium and arsenic in this study were found within the two stream sampling locations. Overall, the findings of this research will help the community members to make better choices for themselves and their livestock.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: arsenic; mining; Navajo Nation; plants; uranium; livestock; food chain
Subjects: T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Social and Behavioral Science > Sustainable Communities
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2023 16:51
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2023 16:51
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5965

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