British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Using lichens as bioindicators of air pollution deposition near remote mining operations Berryman, Shanti; Straker, Justin; Straker, Daniel


Lichens are non-vascular plants that serve as excellent bioindicators of air pollutant deposition, as they absorb nutrients directly from the atmosphere, while also readily accumulating atmospheric contaminants. We present two studies where lichens were used as bioindicators near remote mining operations. First, a new research program was implemented in 2008 to map the characteristics of air pollutant deposition using epiphytic lichens as bioindicators in the Athabasca Oil Sands region of northeastern Alberta, Canada. Lichen elemental content will inform patterns of nitrogen and sulphur deposition in the region and a sub-set of lichen samples will be analyzed for trace metals to identify specific pollutant sources that contribute to elemental enrichment in lichen. Second, terrestrial lichens were used to evaluate off-site airborne transport of metals from the Anvil Range open-pit lead-zinc mine in south-central Yukon, Canada. This study indicated elevated lead and zinc concentrations in lichens to 20⁺ km from the mine site and included components to characterize timing and sources of dust transport. Results from these studies can be used to develop spatial predictive models of deposition patterns within the study area which provide an understanding of environmental impacts from mining operations and can improve mitigation of these impacts. Keywords: oil sands, metals, nitrogen, sulphur, air quality, fugitive dust

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