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Accumulation of heavy metals in native Andean plants: potential tools for soil phytoremediation in Ancash (Peru)

Chang Kee, José, Gonzales, María J., Ponce, Olga, Ramírez, Lorena, León, Vladimir, Torres, Adelia, Corpus, Melissa, Loayza-Muro, Raúl
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.34 pp. 33957-33966
Achyrocline, Calamagrostis, Juncus bufonius, Medicago lupulina, Pennisetum clandestinum, acid soils, bioaccumulation, cadmium, copper, environmental health, environmental quality, freshwater, greenhouse production, heavy metals, humans, hyperaccumulators, indigenous species, lead, mine tailings, mining, nickel, phytoremediation, risk, roots, shoots, soil sampling, zinc, Andes region, Peru
Metal contamination is a recurring problem in Peru, caused mainly by mine tailings from a past active mining activity. The Ancash region has the largest number of environmental liabilities, which mobilizes high levels of metals and acid drainages into soils and freshwater sources, posing a standing risk on human and environmental health. Native plant species spontaneously growing on naturally acidified soils and acid mine tailings show a unique tolerance to high metal concentrations and are thus potential candidates for soil phytoremediation. However, little is known about their propagation capacity and metal accumulation under controlled conditions. In this study, we aimed at characterizing nine native plant species, previously identified as potential hyperaccumulators, from areas impacted by mine tailings in the Ancash region. Plants were grown on mine soils under greenhouse conditions during 5 months, after which the concentration of Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn was analyzed in roots, shoots, and soils. The bioaccumulation (BAF) and translocation factor (TF) were calculated to determine the amount of each metal accumulated in the roots and shoots and to identify which species could be better suited for phytoremediation purposes. Soil samples contained high Cd (6.50–49.80 mg/kg), Cu (159.50–1187.00 mg/kg), Ni (3.50–8.70 mg/kg), Pb (1707.00–4243.00 mg/kg), and Zn (909.00–7100.00 mg/kg) concentrations exceeding national environmental quality standards. After exposure to mine tailings, concentrations of metals in shoots were highest in Werneria nubigena (Cd, 16.68 mg/kg; Cu, 41.36 mg/kg; Ni, 26.85 mg/kg; Zn, 1691.03 mg/kg), Pennisetum clandestinum (Pb, 236.86 mg/kg), and Medicago lupulina (Zn, 1078.10 mg/kg). Metal concentrations in the roots were highest in Juncus bufonius (Cd, 34.34 mg/kg; Cu, 251.07 mg/kg; Ni, 6.60 mg/kg; Pb, 718.44 mg/kg) and M. lupulina (Zn, 2415.73 mg/kg). The greatest BAF was calculated for W. nubigena (Cd, 1.92; Cu, 1.20; Ni, 6.50; Zn, 3.50) and J. bufonius (Ni, 3.02; Zn, 1.30); BCF for Calamagrostis recta (Cd, 1.09; Cu, 1.80; Ni, 1.09), J. bufonius (Cd, 3.91; Cu, 1.79; Ni, 18.36), and Achyrocline alata (Ni, 137; Zn, 1.85); and TF for W. nubigena (Cd, 2.36; Cu, 1.70; Ni, 2.42; Pb, 1.17; Zn, 1.43), A. alata (Cd, 1.14; Pb, 1.94), J. bufonius (Ni, 2.72; Zn, 1.63), and P. clandestinum (Zn, 1.14). Our results suggest that these plant species have a great potential for soil phytoremediation, given their capability to accumulate and transfer metals and their tolerance to highly metal-polluted environments in the Andean region.