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Phytoextraction and Accumulation of Mercury in Three Plant Species: Indian Mustard (Brassica Juncea), Beard Grass (Polypogon monospeliensis), and Chinese Brake Fern (Pteris vittata)

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The objective of this research was to screen and search for suitable plant species to phytoextract mercury-contaminated soil. Our effort focused on using some of the known metal-accumulating wild-type plants since no natural plant species with mercury-hyperaccumulat ing properties has yet been identified. Three plant species were evaluated for their uptake efficiency for mercury: Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), beard grass (Polypogon monospeliensis), and Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata). Four sets of experiments were conducted to evaluate the phytoremediation potential of these three plant species: a pot study with potting mix where mercury was provided daily as HgCl2 solution; experiments with freshly mercury-spiked soil; and a study with aged soils contaminated with different mercury sources (HgCl2, Hg(NO3)2, and HgS). Homemade sunlit chambers were also used to study foliar uptake of Hg from ambient air. Among the three plant species, Chinese brake fern showed the least stress symptoms resulting from mercury exposure and had the highest mercury accumulation. Our results indicate that Chinese brake fern may be a potential candidate for mercury phytoextraction. We found that mercury contamination is biologically available for plant uptake and accumulation, even if the original and predominating mercury form is HgS, and also after multiple phytoremediation cycles.
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Keywords: bioavailability; mercury contaminants; phytoremediation; plant uptake

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Clean Energy Technology (ICET) and Department of Physics and Astronomy, Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, USA 2: Institute for Clean Energy Technology (ICET), Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi, USA 3: Department of Geology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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