Steps Forward in Phytoremediation Technologies: Overcoming the Challenges

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Physiology and Metabolism".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2024) | Viewed by 15342

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Eni S.p.A, R&D Environmental & Biological Laboratories,Via Maritano 26, 20097 S. Donato Milanese, MI, Italy
Interests: bioremediation, phytoremediation, bioenergy

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Guest Editor
Institute of Research on Terrestrial Ecosystem, National Research Council, Via Moruzzi 1, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Interests: contaminated soil/water/sediment, plant biology, phytoremediation, research and treatability test
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Phytoremediation is a powerful, cost-effective, and fully sustainable technology. Limitations of the technologies could be resumed in three factors—contaminant phytotoxicity, adverse environmental factors on plant growth (drought, salinity, critical climate condition, etc.), and often the slow action on contaminant treatment by the plant. Research is ongoing in clarifying involved processes (chemical, physical, and biological) to bring the development of new strategies aimed at improving phytotechnology performance. The interactions between the host plant and associated microorganisms are the basis of phytoremediation technology. Plants can develop a powerful symbiotic connection with their roots' microbial flora. This close relationship between plant and microbial physiology supports plants' development and growth subjected to biotic and abiotic stresses. Several environmental stresses, such as hydrocarbons, heavy metals, heat, cold, drought, salinity, etc., generate physiological responses from complex and coordinated interactions between the soil microorganisms, the rhizosphere's microbial community, and the host plants.

Undoubtedly, phytoremediation offers the highest environmental sustainability index, but further progress in technological efficiency is needed. A better understanding of soil microorganisms and plant-microorganism relations is essential to reaching higher economic and ecological sustainability levels. To achieve this purpose, holistic approaches using “omics” technologies (metagenomics, meta-proteomics, meta-transcriptomics, etc.) can successfully promote an improved and in-depth understanding of the plant-microorganism interactions.

This Special Issue of Plants will explore and highlight consolidated and innovative phytoremediation approaches to counteract the adverse effects of different environmental stresses on plant growth.

Two sections will be set up based on the type of contaminant approached: inorganic (including radionuclides) and organic. The sections will be further organized into two subgroups based on the experimental scale adopted: lab/greenhouse and field scale. A further section will be dedicated to the energy enhancement of phytoremediation biomass, an important step to make the technology even more sustainable.

Dr. Elisabetta Franchi
Dr. Meri Barbafieri
Prof. Dr. Raffaella Maria Balestrini
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • plant-based technologies
  • plant-microbe interaction
  • marginal soils
  • organic and inorganic contaminants
  • biomass valorization
  • sustainability

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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12 pages, 2103 KiB  
Article
Phytoremediation Performance with Ornamental Plants in Monocultures and Polycultures Conditions Using Constructed Wetlands Technology
by José Luis Marín-Muñiz, Irma Zitácuaro-Contreras, Gonzalo Ortega-Pineda, Aarón López-Roldán, Monserrat Vidal-Álvarez, Karina E. Martínez-Aguilar, Luis M. Álvarez-Hernández and Sergio Zamora-Castro
Plants 2024, 13(7), 1051; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants13071051 - 8 Apr 2024
Viewed by 799
Abstract
The assessment of constructed wetlands (CWs) has gained interest in the last 20 years for wastewater treatment in Latin American regions. However, the effects of culture systems with different ornamental species in CWs for phytoremediation are little known. In this study, some chemical [...] Read more.
The assessment of constructed wetlands (CWs) has gained interest in the last 20 years for wastewater treatment in Latin American regions. However, the effects of culture systems with different ornamental species in CWs for phytoremediation are little known. In this study, some chemical parameters such as total suspended solids (TSS), chemical oxygen demand (COD), phosphate (PO4-P), and ammonium (NH4-N) were analyzed in order to prove the removal of pollutants by phytoremediation in CWs. The environmental impact index based on eutrophication reduction (EI-E) was also calculated to estimate the cause-effect relationship using CWs in different culture conditions. C. hybrids and Dieffenbachia seguine were used in monoculture and polyculture (both species mixed) mesocosm CWs. One hundred eighty days of the study showed that CWs with plants in monoculture/polyculture conditions removed significant amounts of organic matter (TSS and COD) (p > 0.05; 40–55% TSS and 80–90% COD). Nitrogen and phosphorous compounds were significantly lower in the monoculture of D. seguine (p < 0.05) than in monocultures of C. hybrids, and polyculture systems. EI-E indicator was inversely proportional to the phosphorous removed, showing a smaller environmental impact with the polyculture systems (0.006 kg PO₄3− eq removed) than monocultures, identifying the influence of polyculture systems on the potential environmental impacts compared with the phytoremediation function in monocultures (0.011–0.014 kg PO₄3− eq removed). Future research is required to determine other types of categories of environmental impact index and compare them with other wastewater treatment systems and plants. Phytoremediation with the ornamental plants studied in CWs is a good option for wastewater treatment using a plant-based cleanup technology. Full article
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18 pages, 1855 KiB  
Article
Nature-Based Solutions for Restoring an Agricultural Area Contaminated by an Oil Spill
by Elisabetta Franchi, Anna Cardaci, Ilaria Pietrini, Danilo Fusini, Alessandro Conte, Alessandra De Folly D’Auris, Martina Grifoni, Francesca Pedron, Meri Barbafieri, Gianniantonio Petruzzelli and Marco Vocciante
Plants 2022, 11(17), 2250; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11172250 - 30 Aug 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2342
Abstract
A feasibility study is presented for a bioremediation intervention to restore agricultural activity in a field hit by a diesel oil spill from an oil pipeline. The analysis of the real contaminated soil was conducted following two approaches. The first concerned the assessment [...] Read more.
A feasibility study is presented for a bioremediation intervention to restore agricultural activity in a field hit by a diesel oil spill from an oil pipeline. The analysis of the real contaminated soil was conducted following two approaches. The first concerned the assessment of the biodegradative capacity of the indigenous microbial community through laboratory-scale experimentation with different treatments (natural attenuation, landfarming, landfarming + bioaugmentation). The second consisted of testing the effectiveness of phytoremediation with three plant species: Zea mays (corn), Lupinus albus (lupine) and Medicago sativa (alfalfa). With the first approach, after 180 days, the different treatments led to biodegradation percentages between 83 and 96% for linear hydrocarbons and between 76 and 83% for branched ones. In case of contamination by petroleum products, the main action of plants is to favor the degradation of hydrocarbons in the soil by stimulating microbial activity thanks to root exudates. The results obtained in this experiment confirm that the presence of plants favors a decrease in the hydrocarbon content, resulting in an improved degradation of up to 18% compared with non-vegetated soils. The addition of plant growth-promoting bacteria (PGPB) isolated from the contaminated soil also promoted the growth of the tested plants. In particular, an increase in biomass of over 50% was found for lupine. Finally, the metagenomic analysis of the contaminated soil allowed for evaluating the evolution of the composition of the microbial communities during the experimentation, with a focus on hydrocarbon- oxidizing bacteria. Full article
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12 pages, 1249 KiB  
Communication
Pseudomonas and Curtobacterium Strains from Olive Rhizosphere Characterized and Evaluated for Plant Growth Promoting Traits
by Martino Schillaci, Aida Raio, Fabiano Sillo, Elisa Zampieri, Shahid Mahmood, Muzammil Anjum, Azeem Khalid and Mauro Centritto
Plants 2022, 11(17), 2245; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants11172245 - 29 Aug 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1974
Abstract
Plant growth promoting (PGP) bacteria are known to enhance plant growth and protect them from environmental stresses through different pathways. The rhizosphere of perennial plants, including olive, may represent a relevant reservoir of PGP bacteria. Here, seven bacterial strains isolated from olive rhizosphere [...] Read more.
Plant growth promoting (PGP) bacteria are known to enhance plant growth and protect them from environmental stresses through different pathways. The rhizosphere of perennial plants, including olive, may represent a relevant reservoir of PGP bacteria. Here, seven bacterial strains isolated from olive rhizosphere have been characterized taxonomically by 16S sequencing and biochemically, to evaluate their PGP potential. Most strains were identified as Pseudomonas or Bacillus spp., while the most promising ones belonged to genera Pseudomonas and Curtobacterium. Those strains have been tested for their capacity to grow under osmotic or salinity stress and to improve the germination and early development of Triticum durum subjected or not to those stresses. The selected strains had the ability to grow under severe stress, and a positive effect has been observed in non-stressed seedlings inoculated with one of the Pseudomonas strains, which showed promising characteristics that should be further evaluated. The biochemical and taxonomical characterization of bacterial strains isolated from different niches and the evaluation of their interaction with plants under varying conditions will help to increase our knowledge on PGP microorganisms and their use in agriculture. Full article
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Review

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29 pages, 1859 KiB  
Review
Using Mediterranean Native Plants for the Phytoremediation of Mining Sites: An Overview of the Past and Present, and Perspectives for the Future
by Maria Enrica Boi, Mauro Fois, Lina Podda, Marco Porceddu and Gianluigi Bacchetta
Plants 2023, 12(22), 3823; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12223823 - 10 Nov 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1847
Abstract
Mining exploitation in the Mediterranean Basin has left evident scars on the environment, and poses serious risks for human health and biodiversity, especially when mine wastes are left abandoned. This review analysed the main issues of metal(loid)s pollution related to mine exploitation in [...] Read more.
Mining exploitation in the Mediterranean Basin has left evident scars on the environment, and poses serious risks for human health and biodiversity, especially when mine wastes are left abandoned. This review analysed the main issues of metal(loid)s pollution related to mine exploitation in the Mediterranean Basin. Here, a list of Mediterranean native plant species studied for phytoremediation is given and, considering their biological forms, vegetational types, and ecology, we categorised them into halotolerant and hydro/hygrophilous vegetation, annual and perennial meadows, garrigues and maquis, and high maquis and woods. The main conclusions of the review are as follows: (1) plant communities established on mine environments are often rich in endemic taxa which ensure a high biodiversity and landscape value, and can help in the psychophysical health of local inhabitants; (2) political and land management should take greater account of the use of native plants for the remediation of contaminated soils; (3) a multidisciplinary approach that includes, among others, studies on biochemical response to metal(loid)s as well as the application of innovative soil amendments gives better results; (4) phytoextraction applications require a detailed recovery plan that takes into consideration several issues, including the negative influence on biodiversity due to extensive use of monotypic plantations, disposal of harvested hazardous plants, and the risk of phytoextracts entering the food chain; and (5) more studies are necessary to increase knowledge and to detect suitable species—especially halophytic ones—for phytoremediation purposes. Full article
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38 pages, 2471 KiB  
Review
Recent Advances in Microbial-Assisted Remediation of Cadmium-Contaminated Soil
by Usman Zulfiqar, Fasih Ullah Haider, Muhammad Faisal Maqsood, Waqas Mohy-Ud-Din, Muhammad Shabaan, Muhammad Ahmad, Muhammad Kaleem, Muhammad Ishfaq, Zoya Aslam and Babar Shahzad
Plants 2023, 12(17), 3147; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12173147 - 31 Aug 2023
Cited by 32 | Viewed by 4199
Abstract
Soil contamination with cadmium (Cd) is a severe concern for the developing world due to its non-biodegradability and significant potential to damage the ecosystem and associated services. Industries such as mining, manufacturing, building, etc., rapidly produce a substantial amount of Cd, posing environmental [...] Read more.
Soil contamination with cadmium (Cd) is a severe concern for the developing world due to its non-biodegradability and significant potential to damage the ecosystem and associated services. Industries such as mining, manufacturing, building, etc., rapidly produce a substantial amount of Cd, posing environmental risks. Cd toxicity in crop plants decreases nutrient and water uptake and translocation, increases oxidative damage, interferes with plant metabolism and inhibits plant morphology and physiology. However, various conventional physicochemical approaches are available to remove Cd from the soil, including chemical reduction, immobilization, stabilization and electro-remediation. Nevertheless, these processes are costly and unfriendly to the environment because they require much energy, skilled labor and hazardous chemicals. In contrasting, contaminated soils can be restored by using bioremediation techniques, which use plants alone and in association with different beneficial microbes as cutting-edge approaches. This review covers the bioremediation of soils contaminated with Cd in various new ways. The bioremediation capability of bacteria and fungi alone and in combination with plants are studied and analyzed. Microbes, including bacteria, fungi and algae, are reported to have a high tolerance for metals, having a 98% bioremediation capability. The internal structure of microorganisms, their cell surface characteristics and the surrounding environmental circumstances are all discussed concerning how microbes detoxify metals. Moreover, issues affecting the effectiveness of bioremediation are explored, along with potential difficulties, solutions and prospects. Full article
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18 pages, 1112 KiB  
Review
A Review on Remediation of Iron Ore Mine Tailings via Organic Amendments Coupled with Phytoremediation
by Sajeevee S. Sarathchandra, Zed Rengel and Zakaria M. Solaiman
Plants 2023, 12(9), 1871; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants12091871 - 3 May 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3196
Abstract
Mining operations degrade natural ecosystems by generating a large quantity of mine tailings. Mine tailings remain in dams/open ponds without further treatment after valuable metals such as iron ore have been extracted. Therefore, rehabilitation of tailings to mitigate the negative environmental impacts is [...] Read more.
Mining operations degrade natural ecosystems by generating a large quantity of mine tailings. Mine tailings remain in dams/open ponds without further treatment after valuable metals such as iron ore have been extracted. Therefore, rehabilitation of tailings to mitigate the negative environmental impacts is of the utmost necessity. This review compares existing physical, chemical and amendment-assisted phytoremediation methods in the rehabilitation of mine tailings from the perspective of cost, reliability and durability. After review and discussion, it is concluded that amendment-assisted phytoremediation has received comparatively great attention; however, the selection of an appropriate phytoremediator is the critical step in the process. Moreover, the efficiency of phytoremediation is solely dependent on the amendment type and rate. Further, the application of advanced plant improvement technologies, such as genetically engineered plants produced for this purpose, would be an alternative solution. Further research is needed to determine the suitability of this method for the particular environment. Full article
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