Faculty and Student Publications

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2020

Abstract

© 2020 by the authors. Elemental profiles in cores of tree trunks (bole wood) have been used for environmental monitoring and reconstruction of metal pollution history. Mercury (Hg) is a global pollutant that can be accurately measured in tree rings in a simple and pragmatic fashion using a direct mercury analyzer (DMA) that is based on thermal decomposition, amalgamation, and atomic absorption spectrophotometry. In this feasibility study, we demonstrate that the ash remaining after the DMA analyses can be used to quantify a wide range of other non-volatile elements (Ba, Be, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Ga, Mg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr, Th, and U) in that same sample of wood by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) after microwave-assisted acid digestion. Other elements (Ag, Cd, Cs, Rb, Tl, and V) exhibited poor recoveries, possibly due to losses during sample preparation. We assessed the accuracy with reference materials, spikes, and by comparison with EPA Method 3052 (Microwave Assisted Acid Digestion of Siliceous and Organically Based Matrices). For the first group of elements (deemed suitable for the method), recoveries ranged between 80% and 120% and the relative standard deviation was generally < 15%, indicating acceptable precision. We applied the method to five species of trees: Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata), white oak (Quercus alba), and tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) from Holly Springs National Forest in north Mississippi, USA. Mercury concentrations (ng/g ± SE) were highest in the cedar (1.8 ± 0.3; n = 5), followed by loblolly pine (1.6 ± 0.3, n = 3), shortleaf pine (1.2 ± 0.2; n = 3), oak (1.1 ± 0.2; n = 5), and poplar (0.5 ± 0.1; n = 5). Concentrations of other elements were generally Fe > Mg > Ba ≈ Sr ≈ Mn > Cr ≈ Cu > Ni ≈ Rb > Co > Ga ≈ Ag, with the other elements generally below the method detection limit (MDL). Overall, we showed that the DMA can be used to not only determine total Hg in segments of tree core, but can serve as the ashing step in the preparation of wood for ICP-MS analysis, thus allowing the determination of non-volatile elements along with Hg in the very same sample.

Relational Format

journal article

DOI

10.3390/molecules25092126

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