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Biochar-assisted phytoextraction of Cd and Zn by Noccaea caerulescens on a contaminated soil: A four-year lysimeter study

Rees, Frédéric, Sterckeman, Thibault, Morel, Jean Louis
The Science of the total environment 2020 v.707 pp. 135654
A horizons, Noccaea caerulescens, biochar, biomass, cadmium, germination, lysimeters, phytoaccumulation, polluted soils, pyrolysis, risk, soil pollution, soil profiles, topsoil, zinc
Amendments of biochar, the residual solid of biomass pyrolysis, have been shown to enhance metal phytoextraction from contaminated soils with hyperaccumulating plants in specific situations. In order to investigate this phenomenon over successive harvests in field conditions, two identical undisturbed soil cylinders (1-m² section × 1.85-m height) were excavated from a contaminated agricultural plot and monitored with instrumented lysimeters. Wood-derived biochar was added at a rate of 5% (w/w) in the first 30 cm of one of the two lysimeters. The Cd/Zn-hyperaccumulator Noccaea caerulescens was then grown for the next four years on both lysimeters. Our results showed that the hyperaccumulating plant was able to remove about 2 g m⁻² of Cd and 12–16 g m⁻² of Zn within four years, representing about 40% and 4% of the initial Cd and Zn soil contamination, respectively. Biochar amendment improved plant germination and survival and increased root surface density. However, no significant effect of biochar on shoot metal content of N. caerulescens was observed. Mass balances suggested that up to 10% the metal contamination moved from the disturbed Ap horizon to the deeper horizons, particularly in the biochar-amended soil profile. Furthermore, shoot Cd and Zn concentration generally decreased over the successive harvests, together with soil metal availability. Depending on the way to account for this progressive decrease in efficiency, our estimations of the time necessary to remove the excess of metals in the topsoil in these conditions ranged from 11 to 111 years for Cd and from 97 years to an infinite time for Zn. In conclusion, the simultaneous use of N. caerulescens and biochar amendment can lead to a significant removal of specific metallic elements from the topsoil, but the risk of metal movement down the soil profile and the observed decrease in phytoextraction efficiency over time deserve further investigations.