Science for Decision Making on Uranium Mining in Arizona

Characterizing Vegetation Communities at Breccia Pipe Deposits through the Mine Life Cycle

At EZ Complex

EZ Complex Life Cycle

The EZ complex represents premining, udevelopment conditions at a mineralized site.

Vegetation surveys were conducted around four breccia pipe uranium deposits, which were in various stages of mine development, and at one non-mineralized reference area. Vegetation surrounding mines is one potential vector for wildlife and livestock exposure to radionuclides and inorganic constituents, via ingestion of potentially contaminated plant tissues.

It is unclear whether mining in the Grand Canyon watershed elevates concentrations of toxic elements in plant tissues or changes the plant community composition, especially downwind from the operational area. These data will be useful when characterizing chemical uptake in vegetation and for future exposure pathway studies at breccia pipe mine sites.


  • Collect species inventory, percent cover of plant species and ground surface categories, and distribution of gaps in perennial plant canopies information at each site.

Questions this study could help answer

Is the plant composition at sites characteristic of regional vegetation patterns, and is variation in species composition within sites attributable to underlying differences in native soil types?

Is there evidence that variation in vegetation composition around the breccia pipe deposits is attributable to mining activity?



Specific Tasks

Task 7a: Conduct species surveys

Principal Investigators

Mike Duniway
Research Ecologist
Southwest Biological Science Center

Jo Ellen Hinck
Columbia Environmental Research Center


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Sites with Related Activities

Arizona 1 || Pinyon Plain (formerly Canyon) || Pinenut || Little Robinson