Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 331–339 | Cite as

Dendroremediation of trinitrotoluene (TNT) Part 2: Fate of radio-labelled TNT in trees

  • Bernd W. Schoenmuth
  • Wilfried Pestemer
Research Article


Background, Aim and Scope

Problems of long-term existence of the environmental contaminant 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and necessities for the use of trees (‘dendroremediation’) in sustainable phytoremediation strategies for TNT are described in the first part of this paper. Aims of the second part are estimation of [14C]-TNT uptake, localisation of TNT-derived radioactivity in mature tree tissues, and the determination of the degree of TNT-degradation during dendroremediation processes. Methods. Four-year-old trees of hybrid willow(Salix spec, clone EW-20) and of Norway spruce(Picea abies) were cultivated in sand or ammunition plant soil (AP-soil) in wick supplied growth vessels. Trees were exposed to a single pulse application with water solved [U-14C]-TNT reaching a calculated initial concentration of 5.2 mg TNT per kg dry soil. Two months after application overall radioactivity and extractability of14C were determined in sand/soil, roots, stem-wood, stem-bark, branches, leaves, needles, andPicea May sprouts. Root extracts were analysed by radio TLC.


60 days after [14C]-TNT application, recovered14C is accumulated in roots (70% for sand variants, 34% for AP-soil variant). 15-28% of14C remained in sand and 61% in AP-soil. 3.3 to 14.4% of14C were located in aboveground tree portions. Above-ground distribution of14C differed considerably between the angiospermSalix and the gymnospermPicea. InSalix, nearly half of above-ground-14C was detected in bark-free wood, whereas inPicea older needles contained most of the above-ground-14 (54-69%).

TNT was readily transformed in tree tissue. Approximately 80% of14C was non-extractably bound in roots, stems, wood, and leaves or needles. Only quantitatively less important stem-bark ofSalix andPicea and May shoots ofPicea showed higher extraction yields (up to 56%).


Pulse application of [14C]-TNT provided evidence for the first time that after TNT-exposure, in tree root extracts, no TNT and none of the known metabolites, mono-amino-dinitro-toluenes (ADNT), diaminonitrotoluenes (DANT), trinitrobenzene (TNB) and no dinitrotoluenes (DNTs) were present. Extractable portions of14C were small and contained at least three unknown metabolites (or groups) forSalix. InPicea, four extractable metabolites (or groups) were detected, where only one metabolite (or group) seemed to be identical forSalix andPicea. All unknown extractables were of a very polar nature.


Results of complete TNT-transformation in trees explain some of our previous findings with ‘cold analytics’, where no TNT and no ADNT-metabolites could be found in tissues of TNT-exposedSalix andPopulus clones. It is concluded that ‘cold’ tissue analysis of tree organs is not suited for quantitative success control of phytoremediationin situ.

Recommendations and Outlook

Both short rotationSalicaceae trees and conifer forests possess a dendroremediation potential for TNT polluted soils. The degradation capacity and the large biomass of adult forest trees with their woody compartments of roots and stems may be utilized for detoxification of soil xenobiotics.


Conifer deciduous tree dendroremediation hybrid willow(Salix spec) natural attenuation nitroaromatic compounds Norway spruce(Picea abies) phytoremediation soil decontamination TNT (2,4,6-trinitrotoluene) 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Ecotoxicology and Ecochemistry in Plant ProtectionFederal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (BBA)BerlinGermany

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