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Copper (Cu) is a soft, reddish-brown metal. Copper can exist in six isotope forms, two stable, and four short-lived. Copper was known to early people and was named from Latin for “Cyprus.” It is easily worked and used for wires, pipes, paints, pesticides, antiseptics, and coins. It is mixed to produce several different materials: brass is copper and zinc; bronze is copper and tin; and, monel is copper and nickel. Copper is one of the essential metals in trees. Copper can quickly become toxic at elevated concentrations. It is used in dozens of enzyme systems. Copper is used in electron transport, cell membrane health, and in CO2 fixation. In tree leaves and secondary cortex, copper is concentrated in an electron transport material which feeds electrons to light harvesting center I (LHCI) called plastocyanin. Copper is also required for the final step in electron transport of respiration where (with Fe) oxygen is converted to water. The greatest use for copper in tree cells is part of an enzyme which decomposes damaging oxygen materials (oxygen free radicals). The tree uses copper for oxidizing many different materials. Deficiency symptoms can quickly occur physiologically downstream from these points.

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Community and Urban Forestry
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