The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.
Date Permissions Signed
Date of Award
Department or Program Affiliation
Master of Science (MS)
Montaño, Manuel D.
Sofield, Ruth M.
Estuaries are unique environments which provide many needed ecosystem services, but are threatened by anthropogenic activities. Contamination with metals represents a significant concern, as even small amounts can persist in the soil and affect biological functions. Phytoremediation, or the use of plants to take up contaminants from the soil, is one possible solution. There is a lack of research on estuarine phytoremediators native to the Pacific Northwest, as well as the ultimate fate of these metals following plant senescence. In this study, we evaluated the total metal concentration at three Whatcom County, WA estuaries and sampled four native plant species (Atriplex patula, Distichlis spicata, Juncus balticus, and Plantago maritima) at these sites repeatedly throughout the growing season. We used acid digestion of both plant tissue and soil, as well as a four-step sequential extraction of the soil, to measure metal concentrations with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Elevated concentrations of metals were found at California and Padden Creek estuaries, while Chuckanut Village pocket estuary had metal concentrations aligned with the median background concentrations for the region. All four plant species were found to be hyperaccumulators of selenium. Atriplex patula, P. maritima, and J. balticus were found to accumulate magnesium, zinc, cadmium, and silver in appreciable quantities, with J. balticus also accumulating manganese. Metal concentrations in aboveground tissue declined over time, with the steepest decreases seen in A. patula and P. maritima. Numerous factors, such as pH and salinity, are known to affect the bioavailability of these metals in soil; sitespecific measurements supported these influences. When choosing plants for phytoremediation, land managers should take care to consider the overall needs of their site and additional ecosystem services that vegetation can provide in conjunction with bioaccumulation abilities.
estuaries, phytoremediation, bioaccumulation, metals
Western Washington University
Subject – LCSH
Estuarine ecology--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Metals--Bioaccumulation--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Phytoremediation--Washington (State)--Whatcom County; Soil pollution--Washington (State)--Whatcom County
Whatcom County (Wash.)
Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.
Critchlow, Margaret, "Bioaccumulation of metals in Whatcom County estuaries by native tidal plants" (2022). WWU Graduate School Collection. 1131.