Lead transfer into the vegetation layer growing naturally in a Pb-contaminated site

  • Rocco PaceEmail author
  • Dario Liberati
  • Paolo Sconocchia
  • Paolo De Angelis
Original Paper


The lead was one of the main elements in the glazes used to colour ceramic tiles. Due to its presence, ceramic sludge has been a source of environmental pollution since this dangerous waste has been often spread into the soil without any measures of pollution control. These contaminated sites are often located close to industrial sites in the peri-urban areas, thus representing a considerable hazard to the human and ecosystem health. In this study, we investigated the lead transfer into the vegetation layer (Phragmites australis, Salix alba and Sambucus nigra) growing naturally along a Pb-contaminated ditch bank. The analysis showed a different lead accumulation among the species and their plant tissues. Salix trees were not affected by the Pb contamination, possibly because their roots mainly develop below the contaminated deposit. Differently, Sambucus accumulated high concentrations of lead in all plant tissues and fruits, representing a potential source of biomagnification. Phragmites accumulated large amounts of lead in the rhizomes and, considering its homogeneous distribution on the site, was used to map the contamination. Analysing the Pb concentration within plant tissues, we got at the same time information about the spread, the history of the contamination and the relative risks. Finally, we discussed the role of natural recolonizing plants for the soil pollution mitigation and their capacity on decreasing soil erosion and water run-off.


Pb Soil contamination Phytoscreening Plant uptake Pollution spread Environmental risk 



The authors acknowledge Dr. Sara Passeri, the staff of the northern district of the ARPA Umbria, and Ing. Andrea Sconocchia for the technical support, Dr. Diego Giuliarelli for the map designing and realization, Dr. Rosita Marabottini for the chemical analysis of plant and soil samples and Dr. Elena Kuzminsky for the scientific support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research – Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU)Garmisch-PartenkirchenGermany
  2. 2.Department for Innovation in Biological, Agro-food and Forest Systems (DIBAF)University of TusciaViterboItaly
  3. 3.Regional Agency for Environmental Protection of Umbria (ARPA Umbria)TerniItaly

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