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In situ remediation of contaminated soils by plants


Well over 4 million hectares of land in Europe are contaminated with heavy metals. These areas are not only unfit for food production and potentially hazardous to human health, but may also be unsuitable for other forms of sustainable economic development. The remediation of these soils by currently available physico-chemical methods is either very costly or impossible. It has become clear that biological approaches to cleaning up these soils would be more effective, more economic. and more environmentally desirable.
To overcome this problem, this proposal will help develop the use of either a special class of pants known as metal hyperaccumulators which can contain very high (up to percent ) concentrations of metals in their small above ground biomass, or non-hyperaccumulating high biomass crop species, and to increase the metal extraction by each. The scientific community agrees that the prerequisites for developing phytoextraction are (a) basic information about the mechanisms by which particularly hyperaccumulator plants access metals in soil and accumulate them in the above ground material, and (b) knowledge of how manage hyperaccumulators or high biomass crops to maximise uptake and-decrease the bioavailable fraction of metals in soils.
To achieve this, we have assembled a group of specialists who will use a fully integrated approach to both the intrinsic plant properties and management factors required.
Our specific objectives are:
(1) to increase understanding of the process of hyperaccumulation, (2) to increase mobilisation and uptake of metals in the rihizosphere of hyperaccumulators or high biomass crops,
(3) to give an improved understanding of the agronomy, and management of metal harvesting crops,
(4) measure the changes in total and bioavailable metals in treated soils and (5) provide some information on: the harvesting and recycling of the metal-enriched biomass, economics and risk assessment of phytoextraction of metals from soils.
A series of field investigations in three European countries will be performed using hyperaccumulating species and a high biomass crop plants. These will cover a range of climate, types of pollution and soils. Experience on the performance of plants under these conditions will be combined in the final outcome of the project.


West Common
AL5 2JQ Harpenden
United Kingdom

Participants (2)

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

5064 Glen Osmond
Avenue De La Forêt De Haye 2
54505 Vandoeuvre-les-nancy