Transfer of radionuclides from soil to vegetation in selected Irish ecosystems
This thesis details the findings of a study relating the transfer of 238U, 228Ra (232Th), 226Ra, and 137Cs from soil to vegetation in an Atlantic blanket bog, upland blanket bog and semi-natural grassland situated along the north-west coast of Ireland. The results of this study provide information on the uptake of these radionuclides by the indigenous vegetation found present in these ecosystems. The ecosystems chosen are internationally recognizable ecosystems and provide a wide variety of vegetation species and contrasting soil physiochemical properties which allow the influence of these parameters on radionuclide uptake to be assessed. The levels of radionuclides in the soil and vegetation were measured using gamma spectrometry, alpha spectrometry and ICP-MS. The nutrient status of the vegetation and soil physiochemical properties were measured using atomic absorption, flame photometry and other analytical techniques. The results of the study indicate that the uptake of 238U and 228Ra (232Th) by vegetation from all three ecosystems was negligible as the levels in all vegetation was below the limits of detection for the methods used in this study. These results appear to indicate that the vegetation studied do not possess the ability to accumulate significant levels of these radionuclides however this assumption cannot be upheld in the case of the Atlantic blanket bog as the levels in the soil of this ecosystem were too low for detection. Similar results were obtained for 226Ra uptake in both the Atlantic blanket bog and grassland for all vegetation with the exception of H. lanatus from the grassland ecosystem. Radium-226 uptake in upland blanket bog was higher and was detectable in the majority of vegetation indigenous to this ecosystem. Transfer factor values ranged from 0.07 to 2.35 and the TF values for E. tetralix were significantly higher than all other vegetation studied. This species of heather demonstrated the ability to accumulate 226Ra to a greater extent than all other vegetation. The uptake of 226Ra by upland blanket bog vegetation appears to be significantly influenced by a range of soil physiochemical properties. The nutrient status of the vegetation, in particular the calcium content in the vegetation appears to have a negative impact on the uptake of this radionuclide. Potassium-40 was detectable in all vegetation present in the three ecosystems and the levels in the grassland soil were significantly higher than the levels in both bogland soils. Transfer factor values for Atlantic blanket bog vegetation ranged from 0.9 to 13 .8 and were significantly higher in E. vaginatum in comparison to C. vulgaris. Potassium-40 TF values for upland blanket bog vegetation on average ranged from 1.4 for C. vulgaris (stems) to 5.2 for E. vaginatum and were statistically similar for all species of vegetation. Transfer factor values for grassland vegetation ranged from 0.7 to 3.8 and were also statistically similar for all species of vegetation indicating that the transfer of 40K to vegetation within the upland bog and grassland ecosystem is not dependent on plant species. Comparisons of 40K TF values for all three ecosystems indicate that the uptake in E. vaginatum from the Atlantic blanket bog was statistically higher than all other vegetation studied. This appears to indicate that E. vaginatum has the ability to accumulate 40K, however, this species of vegetation was also present in the upland blanket and did not demonstrate the same behaviour. The uptake of 40K by vegetation from all three ecosystems was significantly affected by a range of soil physiochemical properties and in some cases the results were contradictory in nature possibly indicating that the affect of these parameters on 40K uptake is species dependent. The most obvious trend in the data was the influence of soil CEC and magnesium levels in vegetation on 40K TF values. A positive correlation was apparent between the CEC of the soil and 40K uptake in vegetation from both the Atlantic blanket bog and grassland ecosystem. A similar trend was apparent between magnesium levels in vegetation and 40K TF values for the upland blanket bog and grassland vegetation. Caesium-13 7 levels were found to be significantly higher in the two bogland soils in comparison to the grassland soil and levels of 137Cs decreased with increasing soil depth. Transfer factor values for Atlantic blanket bog vegetation ranged from 1.9 to 9.6 and TF values were significantly higher in the leaves o f C. vulgaris in comparison to all other vegetation from this ecosystem. Caesium-13 7 TF values for the upland blanket bog vegetation on average ranged from 0.29 for E. tetralix to 1.6 for C. vulgaris. Uptake by the leaves of C. vulgaris was significantly higher than all other vegetation present thereby supporting the trend found within the Atlantic blanket bog vegetation. These results appear to indicate that the leaves of C. vulgaris have the ability to accumulate significant quantities of 137Cs and also that the uptake of 137Cs by this vegetation is dependent on plant compartment as the stems of this vegetation contained significantly lower levels than the leaves in both ecosystems. The uptake of 137Cs by grassland vegetation was very low and was only detectable in a fraction of the vegetation sampled. Caesium-137 TF values for grassland vegetation were in general lower than 0.02. The impact of soil physiochemical properties and nutrient status of vegetation on 137Cs uptake by vegetation appears to be complex and in some cases contradictory. The most apparent trend in the data was the positive influence of vegetation nutrients on 137Cs uptake in particular the magnesium levels present in the vegetation and to a lesser extent the calcium levels present. The results in general indicate that the uptake of 226Ra, 40K and 137Cs by the chosen vegetation is varied and complex and is significantly dependent on the species of vegetation, soil radionuclide concentration, soil physiochemical properties and the nutrient status of the vegetation.
- Theses - Science ITS 
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