Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 765–794 | Cite as

Phytoremediation of contaminated soils and groundwater: lessons from the field

  • Jaco VangronsveldEmail author
  • Rolf Herzig
  • Nele Weyens
  • Jana Boulet
  • Kristin Adriaensen
  • Ann Ruttens
  • Theo Thewys
  • Andon Vassilev
  • Erik Meers
  • Erika Nehnevajova
  • Daniel van der Lelie
  • Michel Mench


Background, aim, and scope

The use of plants and associated microorganisms to remove, contain, inactivate, or degrade harmful environmental contaminants (generally termed phytoremediation) and to revitalize contaminated sites is gaining more and more attention. In this review, prerequisites for a successful remediation will be discussed. The performance of phytoremediation as an environmental remediation technology indeed depends on several factors including the extent of soil contamination, the availability and accessibility of contaminants for rhizosphere microorganisms and uptake into roots (bioavailability), and the ability of the plant and its associated microorganisms to intercept, absorb, accumulate, and/or degrade the contaminants. The main aim is to provide an overview of existing field experience in Europe concerning the use of plants and their associated microorganisms whether or not combined with amendments for the revitalization or remediation of contaminated soils and undeep groundwater. Contaminations with trace elements (except radionuclides) and organics will be considered. Because remediation with transgenic organisms is largely untested in the field, this topic is not covered in this review. Brief attention will be paid to the economical aspects, use, and processing of the biomass.

Conclusions and perspectives

It is clear that in spite of a growing public and commercial interest and the success of several pilot studies and field scale applications more fundamental research still is needed to better exploit the metabolic diversity of the plants themselves, but also to better understand the complex interactions between contaminants, soil, plant roots, and microorganisms (bacteria and mycorrhiza) in the rhizosphere. Further, more data are still needed to quantify the underlying economics, as a support for public acceptance and last but not least to convince policy makers and stakeholders (who are not very familiar with such techniques).


Field experiments Metals Organic contaminants Phytodegradation Phytoextraction Phytoremediation Phytostabilization Rhizodegradation Trace elements 



The authors are grateful to COST-Action 859 and all the members who contributed to the different meetings and workshops of this COST-Action. This COST-Action was very stimulating for exchange of information and supporting existing and creating new collaborations.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaco Vangronsveld
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rolf Herzig
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nele Weyens
    • 1
  • Jana Boulet
    • 1
  • Kristin Adriaensen
    • 1
  • Ann Ruttens
    • 1
  • Theo Thewys
    • 1
  • Andon Vassilev
    • 4
  • Erik Meers
    • 5
  • Erika Nehnevajova
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel van der Lelie
    • 6
  • Michel Mench
    • 7
  1. 1.Centre for Environmental SciencesHasselt UniversityDiepenbeekBelgium
  2. 2.Phytotech-Foundation (PT-F)BernSwitzerland
  3. 3.AGB-Arbeitsgemeinschaft für BioindikationUmweltbeobachtung und ökologische PlanungBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.Agricultural University of PlovdivPlovdivBulgaria
  5. 5.Laboratory of Analytical Chemistry and Applied EcochemistryGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Biology DepartmentBrookhaven National Laboratory (BNL)UptonUSA
  7. 7.UMR BIOGECO INRA 1202University of Bordeaux 1TalenceFrance

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