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Individual Highlight

New Guide for Environmental Forensics

Photo of Tree rings or growth increments as in this block or red oak provide a dynamic record of internal biology and environmental change (upper image). High-resolution chemical analysis of this poplar show within-year and annual trends in calcium (white line) and chlorine (green line) lower image) superimposed of an X-ray showing within-year changes in wood density. USDA Forest ServiceTree rings or growth increments as in this block or red oak provide a dynamic record of internal biology and environmental change (upper image). High-resolution chemical analysis of this poplar show within-year and annual trends in calcium (white line) and chlorine (green line) lower image) superimposed of an X-ray showing within-year changes in wood density. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forensic investigation of chemical spills is aided by a new international guide for tree-ring chemistry. Northern Research Station scientists are part of international Pollution Investigation in Trees team.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Smith, Kevin T. 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 883

Summary

Tree rings are a record of tree development and interaction with other organisms and the environment. Part of that record is contained within tree-ring chemistry, from isotopes in the atmosphere and groundwater to the availability of fertilizer elements. A unique international partnership including two Forest Service scientists at the agency’s Northern Research Station has been investigating tree-ring chemistry for the presence of industrial pollutants such as volatile hydrocarbons, mercury, and inorganic markers of petroleum products. A critical contribution by the station scientists was to identify biological processes that could affect the chemical patterns. More than 50 scientists worldwide are contributing research sites, data, and techniques as part of the Pollution Investigation in Trees team, which includes Forest Service scientists representing the station, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. and international universities, and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME). Guidelines and tools developed by the worldwide team to interpret that chemical record are available through the recent ADEME publication: “Pollution Investigation by Trees: A methodological guide.” The new guide is expected to support forensic investigation of releases of toxic chemicals into the environment.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • French Environment and Energy Management Agency
  • Stockholm University.
  • US Geological Survey
  • University of Missouri, Rolla