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Screening of Australian Native Grasses for Rhizoremediation of Aliphatic Hydrocarbon-Contaminated Soil

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Rhizoremediation involves the breakdown of contaminants in soil resulting from microbial activity that is enhanced in the plant root zone. The objective of this study was to identify Australian native grass species as suitable candidates for rhizoremediation application. Seeds of nine perennial Australian native grasses were sown in soil from a mine site and artificially contaminated with a 60:40 diesel/oil mixture at concentrations of 1% (w/w), 0.5% (w/w), and 0% (control). Seedling emergence was not adversely affected by the presence of hydrocarbon contamination for all but one grass species. Three promising species (Brachiaria decumbens, Cymbopogon ambiguus, and Microlaena stipoides var. Griffin) were assessed for growth characterization in contaminated and uncontaminated soils. The evaluated species survived for 120 days in the contaminated soil and, in some instances, produced considerably more root biomass in the presence of contamination. C. ambiguus showed growth stimulation in the presence of contamination (1% and 0.5% w/w) with significantly increased root biomass production compared with the control (p = 0.0001). B. decumbens and M. stipoides showed tolerance, without adverse growth effects in the presence of diesel/oil at the exposed concentrations. Stimulation of the rhizosphere microbial population that is capable of degrading diesel/oil was found for all of the species tested, using a most probable number method for enumeration. This investigation has identified suitable candidates for further investigation of their rhizoremediation potential.
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Keywords: germination; mine site rehabilitation; native grass; phytoremediation; rhizosphere

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Health, School of Medicine, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia 2: School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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