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Biota of uranium mill tailings near the Black HillsAuthor(s): Mark A. Rumble
Source: In: Proceedings of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Western Division American Fisheries Society: Las Vegas, Nevada, July 18-22, 1982. Boise, Idaho: Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: 278-292
Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
PDF: View PDF (350 KB)
DescriptionReclamation" often implies the enhancement of the land as wildlife habitat or for other productive uses. However, there are situations where revegetation to stabilize erosion is the only desired goal. Uranium mining and mill sites may fall into this later category. Data pertaining to plant and animal components on revegetated uranium mill tailings was collected. Four sites were selected for this study: three uranium mill tailing areas reclaimed between 1973 and 1978 and a control site in a crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) pasture 6.4 km west of the mill. Estimated biomass production was not different between the four sites in June. During August, grass production was higher (a < 0.05) on one of the mill tailing sites than on the others. Rank orders of plant species canopy cover were significantly correlated (r>0.71) between all sites. Similarity indices were low between the revegetated tailing sites and the control site, but were higher for comparisons between sites on the tailings. Radionuclide concentration in vegetation collected from mill tailing sites was not excessively high. Birds were not common on any of the sites, and only one nest was located. Small mammals inhabiting the mill tailings included meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus), house mice (Mus musculatus) , western harvest mice (Reithrodontomys megalotis), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus). Few small mammals were captured on the control site. Western harvest mice were the most common mammal species, followed by deer mice. Gama exposure from thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLD's) implanted in small mammals averaged from 1.3 to 3.3 mR/day on the tailing sites. Exposure on the control site was less than 0.5 mR per day. Numbers of harvester ant (Pogonomyrex spp.) colonies, which represent potential to move contaminated tailings material to the surface, were higher on the revegetated tailing sites versus the control site. The potential for wildlife transmittal of radionuclides away from the tailing area was not excessive because there were few species of wildlife inhabiting the tailing area. Uranium mining and mill sites may fallin to this later category.
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CitationRumble, Mark A. 1982. Biota of uranium mill tailings near the Black Hills. In: Proceedings of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the Western Division American Fisheries Society: Las Vegas, Nevada, July 18-22, 1982. Boise, Idaho: Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies: 278-292
Keywordswildlife, mammals, mine tailings, uranium, gamma radiation, Black Hills
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