Additional analysis of dendrochemical data of Fallon, Nevada

Paul R. Sheppard, Dennis R. Helsel, Robert J. Speakman, Gary Ridenour, Mark L. Witten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Previously reported dendrochemical data showed temporal variability in concentration of tungsten (W) and cobalt (Co) in tree rings of Fallon, Nevada, US. Criticism of this work questioned the use of the Mann-Whitney test for determining change in element concentrations. Here, we demonstrate that Mann-Whitney is appropriate for comparing background element concentrations to possibly elevated concentrations in environmental media. Given that Mann-Whitney tests for differences in shapes of distributions, inter-tree variability (e.g., "coefficient of median variation") was calculated for each measured element across trees within subsites and time periods. For W and Co, the metals of highest interest in Fallon, inter-tree variability was always higher within versus outside of Fallon. For calibration purposes, this entire analysis was repeated at a different town, Sweet Home, Oregon, which has a known tungsten-powder facility, and inter-tree variability of W in tree rings confirmed the establishment date of that facility. Mann-Whitney testing of simulated data also confirmed its appropriateness for analysis of data affected by point-source contamination. This research adds important new dimensions to dendrochemistry of point-source contamination by adding analysis of inter-tree variability to analysis of central tendency. Fallon remains distinctive by a temporal increase in W beginning by the mid 1990s and by elevated Co since at least the early 1990s, as well as by high inter-tree variability for W and Co relative to comparison towns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-101
Number of pages6
JournalChemico-Biological Interactions
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 5 2012


  • Childhood leukemia
  • Cobalt
  • Dendrochemistry
  • Fallon, Nevada
  • Mann-Whitney
  • Tungsten

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology


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