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Native Plant Communities in an Abandoned Pb-Zn Mining Area of Northern Spain: Implications for Phytoremediation and Germplasm Preservation

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Plants growing on metalliferous soils from abandoned mines are unique because of their ability to cope with high metal levels in soil. In this study, we characterized plants and soils from an abandoned Pb-Zn mine in the Basque Country (northern Spain). Soil in this area proved to be deficient in major macronutrients and to contain toxic levels of Cd, Pb, and Zn. Spontaneously growing native plants (belonging to 31 species, 28 genera, and 15 families) were botanically identified. Plant shoots and rhizosphere soil were sampled at several sites in the mine, and analyzed for Pb, Zn and Cd concentration. Zinc showed the highest concentrations in shoots, followed by Pb and Cd. Highest Zn concentrations in shoots were found in the Zn-Cd hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens (mean = 18,254 mg Zn kg−1 DW). Different metal tolerance and accumulation patterns were observed among the studied plant species, thus offering a wide germplasm assortment for the suitable selection of phytoremediation technologies. This study highlights the importance of preserving metalliferous environments as they shelter a unique and highly valuable metallicolous biodiversity.
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Keywords: ecological restoration; metallicolous biodiversity; metallophytes; phytotechnologies; revegetation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departamento de Biología Vegetal y Ecología,Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU), Bilbao, Spain 2: Área de Biología Vegetal, Departamento de Ciencias Agroforestales,Escuela de Ingenierías Agrarias, Soria, Spain 3: NEIKER-Tecnalia,Instituto Vasco de Investigación y Desarrollo Agrario, Derio, Spain

Publication date: January 21, 2011

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