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Ecosystem services and plant physiological status during endophyte-assisted phytoremediation of metal contaminated soil

Burges, Aritz, Epelde, Lur, Blanco, Fernando, Becerril, José M., Garbisu, Carlos
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.584-585 pp. 329-338
Noccaea caerulescens, Rumex acetosa, acid phosphatase, acid value, biodiversity, biogeochemical cycles, carotenoids, chlorophyll, ecosystem services, endophytes, functional diversity, fungi, microbial biomass, mined soils, mining, phosphates, physiological state, phytoremediation, plant growth, plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria, polluted soils, soil inoculation, soil properties, solubilization, water flow, water purification, zinc
Mining sites shelter a characteristic biodiversity with large potential for the phytoremediation of metal contaminated soils. Endophytic plant growth-promoting bacteria were isolated from two metal-(hyper)accumulator plant species growing in a metal contaminated mine soil. After characterizing their plant growth-promoting traits, consortia of putative endophytes were used to carry out an endophyte-assisted phytoextraction experiment using Noccaea caerulescens and Rumex acetosa (singly and in combination) under controlled conditions. We evaluated the influence of endophyte-inoculated plants on soil physicochemical and microbial properties, as well as plant physiological parameters and metal concentrations. Data interpretation through the grouping of soil properties within a set of ecosystem services was also carried out. When grown together, we observed a 41 and 16% increase in the growth of N. caerulescens and R. acetosa plants, respectively, as well as higher values of Zn phytoextraction and soil microbial biomass and functional diversity. Inoculation of the consortia of putative endophytes did not lead to higher values of plant metal uptake, but it improved the plants' physiological status, by increasing the content of chlorophylls and carotenoids by up to 28 and 36%, respectively, indicating a reduction in the stress level of plants. Endophyte-inoculation also stimulated soil microbial communities: higher values of acid phosphatase activity (related to the phosphate solubilising traits of the endophytes), bacterial and fungal abundance, and structural diversity. The positive effects of plant growth and endophyte inoculation on soil properties were reflected in an enhancement of some ecosystem services (biodiversity, nutrient cycling, water flow regulation, water purification and contamination control).