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Lead in Small Mammals, Plants, and Soil at Varying Distances from a Highway

H. D. Quarles III, R. B. Hanawalt and W. E. Odum
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 11, No. 3 (Dec., 1974), pp. 937-949
DOI: 10.2307/2401755
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2401755
Page Count: 13
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Lead in Small Mammals, Plants, and Soil at Varying Distances from a Highway
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Abstract

1. Soil samples from U.S. Route 29 North of Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A. showed increasing concentrations of lead with decreasing distances from the highway. Soil from the central (median) strip averaged 138.6 ppm of lead compared with 17.7 ppm from the control area. 2. Lead concentrations in soil and plants differed on either side of the highway due to local climatic factors and behavior of drivers. 3. Samples of vegetation showed decreasing amounts of lead with increasing distances from the highway. Vegetation from the median strip averaged 109.7 ppm of lead compared with 6.6 ppm from the control area. 4. The bulk of the lead in plants was due to atmospheric contamination rather than uptake from soil. 5. Lead concentrations in small mammals (Microtus pennsylvanicus, Peromyscus leucopus, and Blarina brevicauda) showed increasing amounts of lead with closer proximity to the highway. 6. There was 22.7 ppm of lead found in Blarina, 16.3 ppm in Microtus, and 6.8 ppm in Peromyscus. Contaminated diet is probably the primary input of lead to these animals. Factors responsible for these differences between species include metabolism, type of diet, amount of food consumption, home range, and life span. 7. A tendency for greater lead concentrations in females than males occurred in Microtus and Blarina and in older Microtus and Peromyscus. 8. Lead concentrations in the zone nearest the highway do not appear to be limiting the numbers of Microtus or Peromyscus, but the highest concentrations found in Blarina could explain its small population size.

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