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William, Micheal, Maigan Bond, Faust, Dunlap

Historic contamination of soils by brine water spills has altered soils, causing them to only be capable of supporting sparse plant life. This complication coupled with soil compaction, and lowered infiltration rates are leading to a decline in forage value throughout West Texas. Concerning this research the primary research location is a 14-acre “kill zone” located on a private ranch approximately 14 kilometers south of San Angelo, Tom Green County, Texas. Five separate halophyte species were planted to evaluate their ability to remediate salt contaminated soils. The species in this study include Distichlis spicata (inland saltgrass), Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton), Atriplex canescens (fourwing saltbush), and Cynodon dactylon (common and giant Bermuda grass). These species of specialized plants tolerate elevated levels of salinity. The site has been divided into five sections, each containing 10 of each species of halophyte for a total of 250 test plots. Remote sensing coupled with Google Earth was used to project aerial view maps used to trace the spread of contaminants across the surface since its first appearance. Soil sampling data has allowed modeling of the changes in salt concentrations over the site. Results from the first planting, spring 2015, indicate that protection is needed for plants species as most did not survive. The first planting resulted in most of the test plots being destroyed within the first few months of planting, via drought and animal destruction. Five plots of fourwing saltbush remain and are showing signs of excellent growth in high salinity conditions with an average of 30 cm of growth since the initial planting. Forage quality will be analyzed 2016 along with, solid amendments from ripping and furrowing of the soil, and replanting of our 250 test plots. All of the future data will also be kept in the same ArcGIS database for management purposes

Project Title

Halophytes and Arc GIS: Tools for Remediating Brine Water Spills in West Texas

Faculty Mentor Name

James W. Ward