Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Julie C. Zinnert

Second Advisor

Donald R. Young


Explosive compounds are broadly distributed across the globe as a result of nearly two centuries of munitions use in warfare and military activities. Two explosive compounds have seen disproportionate use; RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) and TNT (2-methyl- 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene), being the most commonly found explosives in the environment. The effects of explosives on biota have been studied in great detail; however, there is a general lack of understanding with regard to broader ecological impacts of these contaminants. My dissertation objective was to follow the impacts of explosive compounds on vegetation across scales. Impacts on vegetation at the species scale alter community composition via species-specific and age-specific responses to explosives. Results presented here showed that contaminated soils induced a variety of responses in vegetation, yet impacts to water relations were similar regardless of species. Use of novel metrics in monitoring plant responses to explosives compounds aided in delineation of reference and treatment groups. At the community scale the presence of explosives induced species and functional composition shifts. The observed shifts are likely due to physiological impairment as individuals in the field exhibited significant impacts to physiological functions. Effects of explosives contamination also detectable using remote sensing techniques. Impacts to plant morphology and physiology are directly related to community level shifts observed in long contaminated areas. This highlights the long lasting impacts that these largely overlooked contaminants can have on a system and opens avenues for new, at range, vegetation based contaminant detection systems.


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