Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 140–151 | Cite as

Biochars immobilize soil cadmium, but do not improve growth of emergent wetland species Juncus subsecundus in cadmium-contaminated soil

  • Zhenhua Zhang
  • Zakaria M. Solaiman
  • Kathy Meney
  • Daniel V. Murphy
  • Zed Rengel



An addition of biochar mixed into the substrate of constructed wetlands may alleviate toxicity of metals such as cadmium (Cd) to emergent wetland plants, leading to a better performance in terms of pollutant removal from wastewater. The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of biochars on soil Cd immobilization and phytoavailability, growth of plants, and Cd concentration, accumulation, and translocation in plant tissues in Cd-contaminated soils under waterlogged conditions.

Materials and methods

A glasshouse experiment was conducted to investigate the effect of biochars derived from different organic sources (pyrolysis of oil mallee plants or wheat chaff at 550 °C) with varied application amounts (0, 0.5, and 5 % w/w) on mitigating Cd (0, 10, and 50 mg kg−1) toxicity to Juncus subsecundus under waterlogged soil condition. Soil pH and CaCl2/EDTA-extractable soil Cd were determined before and after plant growth. Plant shoot number and height were monitored during the experiment. The total root length and dry weight of aboveground and belowground tissues were recorded. The concentration of Cd in plant tissues was determined.

Results and discussion

After 3 weeks of soil incubation, pH increased and CaCl2-extractable Cd decreased significantly with biochar additions. After 9 weeks of plant growth, biochar additions significantly increased soil pH and electrical conductivity and reduced CaCl2-extractable Cd. EDTA-extractable soil Cd significantly decreased with biochar additions (except for oil mallee biochar at the low application rate) in the high-Cd treatment, but not in the low-Cd treatment. Growth and biomass significantly decreased with Cd additions, and biochar additions did not significantly improve plant growth regardless of biochar type or application rate. The concentration, accumulation, and translocation of Cd in plants were significantly influenced by the interaction of Cd and biochar treatments. The addition of biochars reduced Cd accumulation, but less so Cd translocation in plants, at least in the low-Cd-contaminated soils.


Biochars immobilized soil Cd, but did not improve growth of the emergent wetland plant species at the early growth stage, probably due to the interaction between biochars and waterlogged environment. Further study is needed to elucidate the underlying mechanisms.


Biochar Cadmium Constructed wetland Juncus subsecundus Waterlogging 



This work received financial support through the Australian Research Council (ARC-linkage Project, LP0883979) and industry partners (Syrinx Environmental Pty Ltd, Perth). Dr. Zakaria Solaiman's time was supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, Australia. We thank Dr. Evelyn Krull (CSIRO, Land and Water) for providing proximal analysis data of the two biochars, Mr. Michael Smirk (The University of Western Australia) for guidance on laboratory analysis, and Ms. Ping Jiang (The University of Western Australia) for helping with glasshouse work and laboratory analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhenhua Zhang
    • 1
  • Zakaria M. Solaiman
    • 1
  • Kathy Meney
    • 2
  • Daniel V. Murphy
    • 1
  • Zed Rengel
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Earth and EnvironmentThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Syrinx Environmental Pty LtdPerthAustralia

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