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Long-term (two annual cycles) phytoremediation of heavy metal-contaminated estuarine sediments by Phragmites australis

Cicero-Fernández, Diego, Peña-Fernández, Manuel, Expósito-Camargo, Jose A., Antizar-Ladislao, Blanca
New biotechnology 2017 v.38 pp. 56-64
Phragmites australis, arsenic, barium, belowground biomass, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, estuaries, estuarine sediments, heavy metals, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, phytoremediation, plant tissues, sediment contamination, selenium, zinc
The long-term (i.e., two consecutive annual cycles) ability of Phragmites australis to remediate estuarine sediments contaminated with heavy metals (Co, Ni, Mo, Cd, Pb, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Zn and Hg) and trace elements of concern (As, Se, Ba) was investigated using an experimental approach on a pilot plant scale. The accumulation of these elements on belowground and aboveground tissues was monitored during vegetative and senescence periods for two populations of P. australis, originally from contaminated (MIC) and non-contaminated (GAL) estuaries, respectively. The initial concentration of the elements in the contaminated estuarine sediment decreased in the following order: Fe>Mn>Zn>Pb>Ba>Cr>As>Cu>Ni>Co>Mo>Cd>Se>Hg. A similar trend was recorded in the belowground biomass following remediation, suggesting the potential role of P. australis as an effective biomonitoring tool. Hg was not detected in any plant tissue. An overall annual increase of concentration levels in belowground tissue was observed. Overall, this study suggested that P. australis populations from GAL were substantially more efficient in taking up Ni, Mo and Cr during the second annual cycle in both belowground and aboveground tissue than P. australis populations from MIC. Calculated bio-concentration factors (BCF) suggested a clear metal excluder strategy for Co, Cd, Pb, Cu and Fe, with accumulation and stabilisation belowground, with limited translocation into aerial tissues observed during the length of this study. An excluder behaviour for Zn, Ba and Mn was detected during the second annual cycle, coinciding with a substantial increase of concentration levels belowground. This study demonstrated for the first time the long term efficacy of P. australis for phytoremediation of heavy metal contaminated estuarine sediments.