Changes in pH and organic acids in mucilage of Eriophorum angustifolium roots after exposure to elevated concentrations of toxic elements

Abstract

The presence of Eriophorum angustifolium in mine tailings of pyrite maintains a neutral pH, despite weathering, thus lowering the release of toxic elements into acid mine drainage water. We investigated if the presence of slightly elevated levels of free toxic elements triggers the plant rhizosphere to change the pH towards neutral by increasing organic acid contents. Plants were treated with a combination of As, Pb, Cu, Cd, and Zn at different concentrations in nutrient medium and in soil in a rhizobox-like system for 48–120 h. The pH and organic acids were detected in the mucilage dissolved from root surface, reflecting the rhizospheric solution. Also the pH of root–cell apoplasm was investigated. Both apoplasmic and mucilage pH increased and the concentrations of organic acids enhanced in the mucilage with slightly elevated levels of toxic elements. When organic acids concentration was high, also the pH was high. Thus, efflux of organic acids from the roots of E. angustifolium may induce rhizosphere basification.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the Carl Tryggers and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundations of Sweden and Higher Education Commission of Pakistan for financial support. We also thank Claes Bergqvist for collecting E. angustifolium seeds.

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Correspondence to M. Tariq Javed.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Javed, M.T., Stoltz, E., Lindberg, S. et al. Changes in pH and organic acids in mucilage of Eriophorum angustifolium roots after exposure to elevated concentrations of toxic elements. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 1876–1880 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-1413-z

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Keywords

  • Eriophorum angustifolium
  • Heavy metals and As
  • Organic acids
  • pH changes