Uranium distribution and cycling in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) growing on a revegetated U-mining heap

Yves Thiry, May Van Hees, Jean Wannijn, Peter Van Bree, Hildegarde Vandenhove, Gervais Rufyikiri, Peter Schmidt, Hans Vanmarcke

    Research outputpeer-review


    We determined the uranium distribution in soil and its allocation in compartments of 35-year-old Scots pine developed on a revegetated U-mining heap. The processes controlling the dynamics of U recycling were identified and further quantified in terms of annual fluxes. As pine developed, an acid humus layer emerged leading to weathering of the alkaline mining debris but this had little effect on U mobility in the soil profile. Increased U mobility mainly involved a translocation of U to metal-humus chelates in surface layers. The root compartment accounted for 99.3% of the U budget in tree, thus serving as an effective barrier which restricts U uptake. The current root uptake and transfer of U to upper parts of the tree amounted to about 3 g ha−1 y−1, i.e. less than 0.03% of the current NH4-exchangeable U pool in the soil (0–30 cm). Allocation and translocation pattern made it clear that a dominant fraction of the translocated U moves passively with the ascent xylem sap, most likely as a soluble complex, and steadily accumulates in the needles. Consequently, 97% of the U annual uptake is returned to the soil through litterfall. At the studied site, the risk of U dissemination due to biomass turnover or trunk harvest was low when considered in relation to the current “exemption level” for U.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)201-219
    JournalJournal of environmental radioactivity
    Issue number2-3
    StatePublished - Apr 2005

    Cite this