Characterizing the spatial extent of groundwater metal contamination traditionally requires installing sampling wells, an expensive and time-consuming process in urban areas. Moreover, extrapolating biotic effects from metal concentrations alone is problematic, making ecological risk assessment difficult. Our study is the first to examine the use of phytochelatin measurements in tree leaves for delimiting biological metal stress in shallow, metal-contaminated groundwater systems. Three tree species (Rhamnus frangula, Acer platanoides, and Betula populifolia) growing above the shallow groundwater aquifer of the Aberjona River watershed in Woburn, Massachusetts, display a pattern of phytochelatin production consistent with known sources of metal contamination and groundwater flow direction near the Industri-Plex Superfund site. Results also suggest the existence of a second area of contaminated groundwater and elevated metal stress near the Wells G&H Superfund site downstream, in agreement with a recent EPA ecological risk assessment. Possible contamination pathways at this site are discussed.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/james_gawel/7/