Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 35, pp 35184–35199 | Cite as

Effects of landscape plant species and concentration of sewage sludge compost on plant growth, nutrient uptake, and heavy metal removal

  • Shuangshuang Chu
  • Douglass F. Jacobs
  • Dandan Liao
  • Liyin L. Liang
  • Daoming Wu
  • Peijiang Chen
  • Can Lai
  • Fengdi Zhong
  • Shucai ZengEmail author
Research Article


Landscape plants have great potentials in heavy metals (HMs) removal as sewage sludge compost (SSC) is increasingly used in urban forestry. We hypothesize that woody plants might perform better in HMs phytoremediation because they have greater biomass and deeper roots than herbaceous plants. We tested the differences in growth responses and HMs phytoremediation among several herbaceous and woody species growing under different SSC concentrations through pot experiments. The mixing percentage of SSC with soil at 0%, 15%, 30%, 60, and 100% were used as growth substrate for three woody (Ficus altissima Bl., Neolamarckia cadamba (Roxb.) Bosser, and Bischofia javanica Bl.) and two herbaceous (Alocasia macrorrhiza (L.) G. Don and Dianella ensifolia (L.) DC) plants. Results showed that the biomass, relative growth rate, and nutrient uptake for all plants increased significantly at each SSC concentration compared to the control; woody plants had higher biomass and nutrient use efficiency than herbaceous plants. All plants growing in SSC-amended soils accumulated appreciable amounts of HMs and reduced the contents of HMs present in the substrates. The woody plants were generally more effective than herbaceous plants in potentials of HMs phytoextraction, but A. macrorrhiza showed higher bioconcentration and translocation of Cu and Zn and D. ensifolia had higher bioconcentration and translocation of Cd than woody plants. The optimal application concentrations were 30% or less for woody plants and 15% for herbaceous plants for plant growth and ecological risk control, respectively. Intercropping suitable woody and herbaceous landscape plants in urban forestry might have promising potentials to minimize the ecological risks in the phytoremediation of SSC.


Soil quality Sewage sludge amendment Landscape plant Heavy metal Phytoextraction 



Sewage sludge compost


Heavy metals








Relative growth rate


Atomic absorption spectrometry


Translocation factor


Bioconcentration factor


Nutrient use efficiency


Remediation factor


Geoaccumulation index


Potential ecological risk factors


Risk indices



This work was supported by the Science and Technology Department of Guangdong Province, China (grant nos. 2015B020207002) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31270675, 41807112) and the PhD Start-up Fund of Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province, China (grant no. 2018A030310213).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shuangshuang Chu
    • 1
  • Douglass F. Jacobs
    • 2
  • Dandan Liao
    • 1
  • Liyin L. Liang
    • 3
  • Daoming Wu
    • 1
  • Peijiang Chen
    • 1
  • Can Lai
    • 1
  • Fengdi Zhong
    • 1
  • Shucai Zeng
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Forestry & Landscape ArchitectureSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.School of Science and Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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