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Title: Sensitivity of plant communities and soil flora to seawater spills, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Authors: Atlantic Richfield Co.
Sohio Alaska Petroleum Company.
United States. Dept. of Energy.
University of Colorado, Boulder. Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dept. of Biology.
Ohio State University. Institute of Polar Studies.
Simmons, C. L.
Everett, K. R.
Walker, D. A. (Donald A.)
Linkins, A. E.
Webber, Patrick J.
Keywords: Arctic plants
Salt water
Sea water
Marine pollution
Soil flora
Plant conservation
Tundra plants
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Issue Date: Sep-1983
Publisher: Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (U.S.)
Engineer Research and Development Center (U.S.)
Series/Report no.: CRREL report ; 83-24.
Description: CRREL Report
Abstract: Secondary recovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. will involve transporting large quantities of seawater in elevated pipelines across tundra for injection into oil-bearing rock strata. The possibility of a pipeline rupture raises questions concerning the effects of seawater on tundra vegetatlon and soils. To evaluate the relative sensitivities of different plant communities to seawater, eight sites representing the range of vegetation types along the pipeline route were treated with single, saturating applications of seawater during the summer of 1980. Within a month of the treatment 30 of 37 taxa of shrubs and forbs in the experimenlal plots developed clear symptoms of stress, while none of the 14 graminoid taxa showed apparent adverse affects. Live vascular plant cover was thus reduced by 89 and 91% in the two dry sites and by 54, 74 and 83% in the three moist sites respectively. Live (green) bryophyte cover was markedly reduced in the moist experimental sites in 1981. Bryophytes in all but one of the wet-site experimental plots were apparently unaffected by the seawater treatment. Two species of foliose lichens treated with seawater showed marked deterioration in 198 1. All other lichen taxa were apparently unaffected by the seawater treatment. The absorption and retention of salts by the soil is inversely related to the soil moisture regime. In the wet sites, conductivities approached prespill levels within about 30 days. In such sites, spills at the experimental volumes are quickly diluted and the salts flushed from the soil. In the dry sites, on the other hand, salts are retained in the soil, apparently concentrating at or near the seasonal thaw line. On spill sites, microbial·related soil respiration and hydrolysis of cellulose and organic phosphorus were significantly reduced, as were soil enzymes and viable microbial biomass, for up to one year after treatment. Ectomycorrhizal roots of Salix on the treated plots showed a significant reduction in viable biomass, number of mycorrhizal roots, and respiration rates of the viable roots.
Appears in Collections:CRREL Report

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