Metal accumulation capacity in indigenous Alaska vegetation growing on military training lands

Permafrost thawing could increase soil contaminant mobilization in the environment. Our objective was to quantify metal accumulation capacities for plant species and functional groups common to Alaskan military training ranges where elevated soil metal concentrations were likely to occur. Plant species across multiple military training range sites were collected. Metal content in shoots and roots was compared to soil metal concentrations to calculate bioconcentration and translocation factors. On average, grasses accumulated greater concentrations of Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Sb, and Zn relative to forbs or shrubs, and bioconcentrated greater concentrations of Ni and Pb. Shrubs bioconcentrated greater concentrations of Sb. Translocation to shoots was greatest among the forbs. Three native plants were identified as candidate species for use in metal phytostabilization applications. Elymus macrourus, a grass, bioconcentrated substantial concentrations of Cu, Pb, and Zn in roots with low translocation to shoots. Elaeagnus commutata, a shrub, bioconcentrated the greatest amounts of Sb, Ni, and Cr, with a low translocation factor. Solidago decumbens bioconcentrated the greatest amount of Sb among the forbs and translocated the least amount of metals. A combination of forb, shrub, and grass will likely enhance phytostabilization of heavy metals in interior Alaska soils through increased functional group diversity.