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Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 1039–1070 | Cite as

Successes and limitations of phytotechnologies at field scale: outcomes, assessment and outlook from COST Action 859

  • Michel MenchEmail author
  • Nick Lepp
  • Valérie Bert
  • Jean-Paul Schwitzguébel
  • Stanislaw W. Gawronski
  • Peter Schröder
  • Jaco Vangronsveld
SOILS, SEC 2 • GLOBAL CHANGE, ENVIRON RISK ASSESS, SUSTAINABLE LAND USE • REVIEW ARTICLE

Abstract

Purpose

Many agricultural and brownfield soils are polluted and more have become marginalised due to the introduction of new, risk-based legislation. The European Environment Agency estimates that there are at least 250,000 polluted sites in the member states that require urgent remedial action. There is also significant volumes of wastewaters and dredged polluted sediments. Phytotechnologies potentially offer a cost-effective in situ alternative to conventional technologies for remediation of low to medium-contaminated matrices, e.g. soils, sediments, tailings, solid wastes and waters. For further development, social and commercial acceptance, there is a clear requirement for up-to-date information on successes and failures of these technologies based on evidence from the field. This review reports the outcomes from several integrated experimental attempts to address this at both field and market level in the 29 countries participating in COST Action 859.

Results and discussion

This review offers insight into the deployment of promising and emergent in situ phytotechnologies, for sustainable remediation and management of contaminated soils and water, that integrative research findings produced between 2004 and 2009 by members of COST Action 859. Many phytotechnologies are at the demonstration level, but relatively few have been applied in practice on large sites. They are not capable of solving all problems. Those options that may prove successful at market level are (a) phytoextraction of metals, As and Se from marginally contaminated agricultural soils, (b) phytoexclusion and phytostabilisation of metal- and As-contaminated soils, (c) rhizodegradation of organic pollutants and (d) rhizofiltration/rhizodegradation and phytodegradation of organics in constructed wetlands. Each incidence of pollution in an environmental compartment is different and successful sustainable management requires the careful integration of all relevant factors, within the limits set by policy, social acceptance and available finances. Many plant stress factors that are not evident in short-term laboratory experiments can limit the effective deployment of phytotechnologies at field level. The current lack of knowledge on physicochemical and biological mechanisms that underpin phytoremediation, the transfer of contaminants to bioavailable fractions within the matrices, the long-term sustainability and decision support mechanisms are highlighted to identify future R&D priorities that will enable potential end-users to identify particular technologies to meet both statutory and financial requirements.

Conclusions

Multidisciplinary research teams and a meaningful partnership between stakeholders are primary requirements that determine long-term ecological, ecotoxicological, social and financial sustainability of phytotechnologies and to demonstrate their efficiency for the solution of large-scale pollution problems. The gap between research and development for the use of phytoremediation options at field level is partly due to a lack of awareness by regulators and problem owners, a lack of expertise and knowledge by service providers and contractors, uncertainties in long-term effectiveness and difficulties in the transfer of particular metabolic pathways to productive and widely available plants. Networks such as COST Action 859 are highly relevant to the integration of research activity, maintenance of projects that demonstrate phytoremediation at a practical field scale and to inform potential end-users on the most suitable techniques. Biomass for energy and other financial returns, biodiversity and ecological consequences, genetic isolation and transfer of plant traits, management of plant–microorganism consortia in terrestrial systems and constructed wetlands, carbon sequestration and soil and water multi-functionality are identified as key areas that need to be incorporated into existing phytotechnologies.

Keywords

Constructed wetland COST Action 859 Hyperaccumulator Organic xenobiotic Phytodegradation Phytoexclusion Phytoextraction Phytoremediation Phytostabilisation Rhizodegradation Trace element 

Abbreviations

BCF

Bioconcentration factor

BOD

Biochemical oxygen demand

BTEX

Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene

CEC

Cation exchange capacity

CDTA

1,2-Cyclohexane diamino-tetraacetate

COD

Chemical oxygen demand

CW

Constructed wetlands

DTPA

Diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid

DW

Dry weight

EC

Electrical conductivity

EDDS

Ethylenediamine-N,N′-disuccinic acid

EDTA

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid

Eh

Reduction potential

GMO

Genetically modified organism

MCB

Monochlorobenzene

Me

Metal

MGDA

Methylglycinediacetic acid

NTA

Nitrilotriacetic acid

OX

Organic xenobiotic(s)

PAH

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

SRC

Short rotation coppice

TE

Trace element(s)

TECS

Trace element-contaminated soil

TF

Transfer factor

Notes

Acknowledgements

This review was written by members of Working Group 4 (Integration and application of phytotechnologies) of COST Action 859 (Phytotechnologies to promote sustainable land use and improve food safety). COST is financed by the European Commission, with European Science Foundation as implementing agent. Authors are grateful to all COST Action 859 members for their contribution to the network (all abstracts available at http://w3.gre.ac.uk/cost859/), especially to working group coordinators and workshop organising committees, and to the COST Office, Brussels, Belgium, ADEME Department of Polluted Soils and Sites, Angers, France, and Aquitaine Region Council, Bordeaux, France for financial support. Thanks to Dr. S. Trapp, Environment & Resources DTU, Technical University of Denmark, Kongens Lyngby, DK for relevant comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Mench
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nick Lepp
    • 2
  • Valérie Bert
    • 3
  • Jean-Paul Schwitzguébel
    • 4
  • Stanislaw W. Gawronski
    • 5
  • Peter Schröder
    • 6
  • Jaco Vangronsveld
    • 7
  1. 1.UMR BIOGECO INRA 1202, Ecologie des CommunautésUniversité Bordeaux 1TalenceFrance
  2. 2.Faculty of SciencesLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK
  3. 3.Unité Technologies et Procédés Propres et Durables, DRC, INERIS, Parc Technologique ALATAVerneuil en HalatteFrance
  4. 4.Laboratory for Environmental Biotechnology (LBE)Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland
  5. 5.Laboratory of Basic Research in HorticultureWarsaw University of Life SciencesWarsawPoland
  6. 6.Department Microbe–Plant InteractionsHelmholtz Zentrum München–German Research Center for Environmental HealthNeuherbergGermany
  7. 7.Campus Diepenbeek, Environmental BiologyUniversiteit HasseltDiepenbeekBelgium

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