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Assessment of Phytoremediation in the Kerber Creek Watershed, Saguache County, CO

by Berglund, Erika


As a result of abandoned mining operations, the Kerber Creek Watershed in Saguache County, CO became the site of large-scale acid mine drainage and deposition. Consequently, highly acidic soils and subsequently toxic levels of bioavailable metals characterized the floodplain. In response to this environmental degradation, several groups including the USFS, BLM, ASARCO, Bonanza Stakeholders Group, and Trout Unlimited began remediating contaminated sites by adding neutralizing amendments, compost, and a seed mixture to the soils for the purpose of phytoremediation. This study aims to develop an understanding of the metal uptake and storage behaviors of the various plants that have established in the remediated sites. This information is intended to quantify the success of phytoremediation efforts and inform future work. Plant coverage was determined and samples of present species were taken at each site. Samples were then identified, cleaned, separated into different tissues, dried, powdered, digested with a nitric acid, microwave-assisted digestion procedure, and analyzed for metal content using an ICP-OES. All samples were found to have metal levels above that of critical concentrations for plants, suggesting that they are all highly metal tolerant. Translocation factors (metalaboveground:metalbelowground) were determined for each species and it was found that all herbaceous species sampled stored significant levels of metals in aboveground tissue, with TF factors above one and as high as eight, while grass species primarily retained metals in their roots, with TF factors for nearly all samples below one. Noticeable heavy grazing by cattle and the resultant presence of herbaceous weedy species seem to pose a threat to the long-term success of phytoremediation in the area. Future re-seeding efforts and the development of an improved cattle management strategy may be necessary to maintain a healthy, stable watershed.


The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright restrictions apply.
Colorado College
Digital Origin
born digital
66 pages : illustrations, map(s)
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Lee, Mari
Environmental Program
Degree Name
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Type
Degree Grantor
Colorado College
Date Issued