Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 6511–6525 | Cite as

Phytoremediation of salt-affected soils: a review of processes, applicability, and the impact of climate change

  • João M. Jesus
  • Anthony S. DankoEmail author
  • António Fiúza
  • Maria-Teresa Borges
Review Article


Soil salinization affects 1–10 billion ha worldwide, threatening the agricultural production needed to feed the ever increasing world population. Phytoremediation may be a cost-effective option for the remediation of these soils. This review analyzes the viability of using phytoremediation for salt-affected soils and explores the remedial mechanisms involved. In addition, it specifically addresses the debate over plant indirect (via soil cation exchange enhancement) or direct (via uptake) role in salt remediation. Analysis of experimental data for electrical conductivity (ECe) + sodium adsorption ratio (SAR) reduction and plant salt uptake showed a similar removal efficiency between salt phytoremediation and other treatment options, with the added potential for phytoextraction under non-leaching conditions. A focus is also given on recent studies that indicate potential pathways for increased salt phytoextraction, co-treatment with other contaminants, and phytoremediation applicability for salt flow control. Finally, this work also details the predicted effects of climate change on soil salinization and on treatment options. The synergetic effects of extreme climate events and salinization are a challenging obstacle for future phytoremediation applications, which will require additional and multi-disciplinary research efforts.


Phytoremediation Saline soils Salt-affected soils Phytoextraction Climate change 



The authors would like to acknowledge the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) for the PhD grant (FCT-DFRH-SFRH/BD/84750/2012) and the Ciência 2008 program.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • João M. Jesus
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anthony S. Danko
    • 5
    Email author
  • António Fiúza
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria-Teresa Borges
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Mining Engineering, Geo-Environment and Resources Research Centre (CIGAR)University of Porto-Faculty of Engineering (FEUP)PortoPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Natural Resources and the Environment (CERENA), Instituto Superior TécnicoULLisboaPortugal
  3. 3.Biology Department, Science FacultyPorto University (FCUP)PortoPortugal
  4. 4.CIIMARUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  5. 5.CIGAR/CERENA, Department of Mining EngineeringUniversity of Porto-Faculty of Engineering (FEUP)PortoPortugal

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