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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Dec 7;96(25):14635-40.

Intra-ring variability of Cr, As, Cd, and Pb in red oak revealed by secondary ion mass spectrometry: implications for environmental biomonitoring.

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Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, Department of Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


Reconstructing the history of ambient levels of metals by using tree-ring chemistry is controversial. This controversy can be resolved in part through the use of selective microanalysis of individual wood cells. Using a combination of instrumental neutron activation analysis and secondary ion mass spectrometry, we have observed systematic inhomogeneity in the abundance of toxic metals (Cr, As, Cd, and Pb) within annual growth rings of Quercus rubra (red oak) and have characterized individual xylem members responsible for introducing micrometer-scale gradients in toxic metal abundances. These gradients are useful for placing constraints on both the magnitude and the mechanism of heavy metal translocation within growing wood. It should now be possible to test, on a metal-by-metal basis, the suitability of using tree-ring chemistries for deciphering long-term records of many environmental metals.

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