Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 9, pp 9114–9131 | Cite as

Trace element phytoextraction from contaminated soil: a case study under Mediterranean climate

  • Werther Guidi NissimEmail author
  • Emily Palm
  • Stefano Mancuso
  • Elisa Azzarello
Research Article


The current field study aims to assess the suitability of four different plant species (i.e. poplar, willow, hemp and alfalfa) to be used for trace element (TE) (i.e. Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn) phytoextraction under hot-arid Mediterranean climate conditions. Plants were grown for two consecutive years on a moderate TE contaminated soil, supplied with water and mineral nutrients. The growth and physiological parameters were assessed throughout the trial to compare the response of plants to the environmental pollution, and TE uptake rates were measured for aboveground plant tissues. The phytoextraction rate for each species was expressed as a function of aboveground biomass yield and the TE uptake and translocation within the plant. Alfalfa played a significant role in reducing extractable Ni (60.6%) and Zn (46%) in the soil, whereas hemp reduced 32% of extractable Cd and 46% of extractable Pb; poplar decreased extractable Cd (37%), Ni (49%), Pb (46%) and Zn (63%); and willow reduced the extractable Zn (73%) compared to the beginning of the trial. No change in total TE content was observed; however, poplar and willow were able to extract and accumulate the highest amount of Zn (3200 and 5200 g ha−1 year−1 respectively) and Cu (182 and 116 g ha−1 year−1), whereas hemp, with 36 g ha−1 year−1, showed the best phytoextraction potential for Pb. Overall, we found a positive correlation between the phytoextraction rate and biomass yield, extractable TE concentration and translocation factor (TF) and a negative relationship with Ca concentration in the soil.


Phytoremediation Phytomanagement Brownfield Heavy metal Populus Salix 



We thank Andrea Carletti for supporting the field work at the experimental site and sampling, and Luisa Andrenelli for assistance with the chemical analysis. The authors wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their positive and constructive comments during the revision process.

Funding information

This work was funded by the Italian Ministry of Defence, project VESPA (Vegetal Systems for Pollution Avoidance).

Supplementary material

11356_2018_1197_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2 mb)
ESM 1 (DOC 2048 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agrifood Production and Environmental Sciences (DISPAA)University of FlorenceSesto FiorentinoItaly

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