Revegetation of an abandoned uranium millsite on the Colorado Plateau, Arizona

J Environ Qual. 2001 Jul-Aug;30(4):1154-62. doi: 10.2134/jeq2001.3041154x.


We attempted to restore native plants on disturbed sites at a former uranium mill on the Colorado Plateau near Tuba City, AZ. Four-wing saltbush [Atriplex canescens (Pursh) Nutt.] was successfully established in compacted caliche soil and in unconsolidated dune soil when transplants were irrigated through the first summer with 20 L/plant/wk. The caliche soil was ripped before planting to improve water-holding capacity. The diploid saltbush variety, angustifolia, had higher survival and growth than the common tetraploid variety, occidentalis, especially on dune soil. The angustifolia variety grew to 0.3 to 0.4 m3 per plant over 3 yr even though irrigation was provided only during the establishment year. By contrast, direct seeding of a variety of native forbs, grasses, and shrubs yielded poor results, despite supplemental irrigation throughout the first summer. In this arid environment (precipitation = 100 to 200 mm/yr), the most effective revegetation strategy is to establish keystone native shrubs, such as four-wing saltbush, using transplants and irrigation during the establishment year, rather than attempting to establish a diverse plant community all at once.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control
  • Industry
  • Plants*
  • Population Dynamics
  • Soil
  • Uranium
  • Water Supply


  • Soil
  • Uranium