Metal uptake by young trees from dredged brackish sediment: Limitations and possibilities for phytoextraction and phytostabilisation

Jan Mertens*, Pieter Vervaeke, A. de Schrijver, Sebastiaan Luyssaert

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Five tree species (Acer pseudoplatanus L., Alnus glutinosa L. Gaertn., Fraxinus excelsior L., Populus alba L. and Robinia pseudoacacia L.) were planted on a mound constructed of dredged sediment. The sediment originated from a brackish river mouth and was slightly polluted with heavy metals. This preliminary study evaluated the use of trees for site reclamation by means of phytoextraction of metals or phytostabilisation. Although the brackish nature of the sediment caused slight salt damage, overall survival of the planted trees was satisfactory. Robinia and white poplar had the highest growth rates. Ash, maple and alder had the highest survival rates (>90%) but showed stunted growth. Ash, alder, maple and Robinia contained normal concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in their foliage. As a consequence these species reduce the risk of metal dispersal and are therefore suitable species for phytostabilisation under the given conditions. White poplar accumulated high concentrations of Cd (8.0 mg kg-1) and Zn (465 mg kg-1) in its leaves and might therefore cause a risk of Cd and Zn input into the ecosystem because of autumn litter fall. This species is thus unsuitable for phytostabilisation. Despite elevated metal concentrations in the leaves, phytoextraction of heavy metals from the soil by harvesting stem and/or leaf biomass of white poplar would not be a realistic option because it will require an excessive amount of time to be effective.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-215
    Number of pages7
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2004


    • Heavy metals
    • Metal uptake
    • Phytoremediation
    • Phytostabilisation
    • Tree species


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