Sep 16, 2022
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A plant has been discovered that can effectively clean up polluted soil

A plant has been discovered that can effectively clean up polluted soil

The southern tail (Typha domingensis) is a reed marsh plant that lives in fresh and brackish waters and grows to a height of five to 13 feet. A new study led by the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil found that these swamp plants can extract 34 times more manganese from contaminated soil than other plants such as hibiscus, sedge or bulrush that live in a similar environment. The results obtained demonstrate the potential of the southern tailing for use in the sustainable rehabilitation of areas affected by iron mine tailings.

Scientists conducted a study in Regencia at the mouth of the Doce River in the state of Espírito Santo, in an area that was flooded by part of the 50 million cubic meters of iron mining waste thrown out by the breakthrough of the Fundao tailings in November 2015 in Mariana, in a city located in the state of Minas- Gerais (neighboring Santo state of Espiritu), which led to the worst environmental disaster in the history of Brazil, which affected 41 cities and claimed the lives of 19 people.

What’s more, the toxic waste that entered the river’s mouth about two weeks later is estimated to have polluted 240.8 hectares of the Atlantic Rainforest and killed 14 metric tons of fish. Although many mitigation projects have been started since then, the river mouth remains polluted.

Now, scientists have discovered that the southern tail can effectively extract and remove elemental pollutants, or reduce their bioavailability in the soil, through a process called phytoremediation.

“We knew from research by other scientists that manganese was a problem in this region, polluting water, soil and fish. When we went to the area affected by iron ore tailings, we expected to find that T. domingensis and Eleocharis acutangula [остролодочник] accumulate more manganese than H. tiliaceus, an arboreal species native to the area, but the results showed that T. domingensis can accumulate 13 times more manganese in its aerial parts than the other two species,” explained study lead author Amanda Duim Ferreira, USP Soil Science PhD Student.

“These findings open up a range of possibilities for using phytoremediation. Knowledge of uptake mechanisms could inform the cultivation of T. domingensis with different strategies for optimal results,” added study senior author Professor Thiago Ferreira.

“We are applying several methods based on what we know about the best planting time and number of crops per year to increase biomass production and remove the most manganese and iron,” concludes Ferreira.

The study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

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