DV-05-009 Metalliferous Plants of the Callahan Mine: Plant Diversity, Heavy Metal Tolerance, and Potential for Phytoremediation

Nishanta Rajakaruna
College of the Atlantic

105 Eden Street
Bar Harbor, ME 04609 207.288.5015 ext. 261

Plants that grow in metal-rich soils are often physiologically and taxonomically distinct populations, providing model systems to examine the process of plant evolution. Current understanding of how new plant species arise has benefited from research conducted on metal-tolerant plants over the last 50 years. More recently, these plants have attracted the attention of scientists as candidates for soil remediation. Plants are excellent indicators of pollution and analysis of leaf tissue can shed light on the amounts of toxic metals that are transferred through the food chain to higher trophic levels.

The former Callahan Mine site in Brooksville, Maine, offers a local opportunity to study metals in vegetation. The Callahan Mine, a Superfund site, was formerly a zinc and copper mine. Operations adjacent to and beneath a tidal estuary left the area contaminated with arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc, all of which are known to accumulate in biota with significant health risks. This research project will identify and characterize plants of the Callahan site, estimate the levels of toxic heavy metals in above-ground plant tissues and soils, and conduct greenhouse and field studies of metal uptake, accumulation, and phytoremediation potential. The results will contribute to future clean-up plans for the site, and provide data useful in addressing community health concerns.

1-year project: $5,600