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Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2014;21(11):6921-9. doi: 10.1007/s11356-013-1913-5. Epub 2013 Jun 29.

Uranium contents in plants and mushrooms grown on a uranium-contaminated site near Ronneburg in Eastern Thuringia/Germany.

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Institute of Resource Ecology, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, 01314, Dresden, Germany,


Uranium concentrations in cultivated (sunflower, sunchoke, potato) and native plants, plant compartment specimens, and mushrooms, grown on a test site within a uranium-contaminated area in Eastern Thuringia, were analyzed and compared. This test site belongs to the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena and is situated on the ground of a former but now removed uranium mine waste leaching heap. For determination of the U concentrations in the biomaterials, the saps of the samples were squeezed out by using an ultracentrifuge, after that, the uranium concentrations in the saps and the remaining residue were measured, using ICP-MS. The study further showed that uranium concentrations observed in plant compartment and mushroom fruiting bodies sap samples were always higher than their associated solid residue sample. Also, it was found that the detected uranium concentration in the root samples were always higher than were observed in their associated above ground biomass, e.g., in shoots, leaves, blossoms etc. The highest uranium concentration was measured with almost 40 ppb U in a fruiting body of a mushroom and in roots of butterbur. However, the detected uranium concentrations in plants and mushrooms collected in this study were always lower than in the associated surface and soil water of the test site, indicating that under the encountered natural conditions, none of the studied plant and mushroom species turned out to be a hyperaccumulator for uranium, which could have extracted uranium in sufficient amounts out of the uranium-contaminated soil. In addition, it was found that the detected uranium concentrations in the sap samples, despite being above the sensitivity limit, proved to be too low-in combination with the presence of fluorescence quenching substances, e.g., iron and manganese ions, and/or organic quenchers-to extract a useful fluorescence signal, which could have helped to identify the uranium speciation in plants.

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