Uranium mobility across annual growth rings in three deciduous tree species

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Black walnut (Juglans nigra), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), and white ash (Fraxinus americana) trees were evaluated as potential archives of past uranium (U) contamination. Like other metals, U mobility in annual growth rings of trees is dependent on the tree species. Uranium concentrations and isotopic compositions (masses 234, 235, 236, and 238) were analyzed by thermal ionization mass spectrometry to test the efficacy of using tree rings to retroactively monitor U pollution from the FFMPC, a U purification facility operating from 1951 to 1989. This study found non-natural U (depleted U and detectable 236U) in growth rings of all three tree species that pre-dated the start of operations at FFMPC and compositional trends that did not correspond with known contamination events. Therefore, the annual growth rings of these tree species cannot be used to reliably monitor the chronology of U contamination.



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