Remediation of Metal-Contaminated Soil by Organic Metabolites from Fungi II—Metal Redistribution
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Exudation of low molecular weight organic acids by fungi was studied in a project focusing on bioremediation of metal-contaminated soils. The production of acids (mainly oxalic and citric acid) as a response to nutrient variations and presence of metals has recently been reported (Arwidsson et al. 2009). A significant release of metals was observed and was related not only to the production of organic acids but also to the resulting pH decrease in the systems. The processes governing the release and redistribution of metals in the soil–water fungus system were the focus of the present continuation of the project, based on observations of Aspergillus niger, Penicillium bilaiae, and a Penicillium sp. The release of lead was 12% from the soil with the second highest initial load (1,600 mg kg−1), while the release of copper was 90% from the same soil (140 mg kg−1). The dominating mechanism behind the release and subsequent redistribution was the change in pH, going from near neutral to values in the range 2.1–5.9, reflecting the production of organic acids. For some of the systems, the formation of soluble complexes is indicated (copper, at intermediate pH) which favors the metal release. Iron is assumed to play a key role since the amount of secondary iron in the soils is higher than the total load of secondary heavy metals. It can be assumed that most of the heavy metals are initially associated with iron-rich phases through adsorption or coprecipitation. These phases can be dissolved, or associated metals can be desorbed, by a decrease in pH. It would be feasible to further develop a process in technical scale for remediation of metal-contaminated soil, based on microbial metabolite production leading to formation of soluble metal complexes, notably with copper.
KeywordsBioremediation Fungi Metals Oxalic acid Citric acid
Financial support was obtained from the Foundation for Knowledge and Competence Development, as well as Sakab-Kumla Environmental Foundation. The classification of the fungi was made by P. Fransson, at the Department of Forest Mycology and Pathology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, which is gratefully acknowledged. The valuable help from T. von Kronhelm (Remediation Technologies, SAKAB AB), P. van Hees, E. Johansson, and S. Karlsson (Department of Natural Science, Orebro University) is most thankfully accredited.
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