Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 47, Issue 3–4, pp 287–319

Toxicity of heavy metals (Zn, Cu, Cd, Pb) to vascular plants

A literature review
  • Anna-Maj Balsberg Påhlsson


The literature on heavy metal toxicity to vascular plants is reviewed. Special attention is given to forest plant species, especially trees, and effects at low metal concentrations, including growth, physiological, biochemical and cytological responses. Interactions between the metals in toxicity are considered and the role of mycorrhizal infection as well. Of the metals reviewed, Zn is the least toxic. Generally plant growth is affected at 1000 μg Zn L−1 or more in a nutrient solution, though 100 to 200 µg L−1 may give cytological disorders. At concentrations of 100 to 200 μg L−1, Cu and Cd disturb metabolic processes and growth, whereas the phytotoxicity of Pb generally is lower. Although a great variation between plant species, critical leaf tissue concentrations affecting growth in most species being 200 to 300 μg Zn g−1 dry weight, 15 to 20 μg Cu g−1 and 8–12 μg Cd g−1. With our present knowledge it is difficult to propose a limit for toxic concentrations of Zn, Cu, Cd and Pb in soils. Besides time of exposure, the degree of toxicity is influenced by biological availability of the metals and interactions with other metals in the soil, nutritional status, age and mycorrhizal infection of the plant.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna-Maj Balsberg Påhlsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Plant EcologyUniversity of LundLundSweden

Personalised recommendations