Salix discolor: Prospects for phytoremediation of lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

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  • Phytoremediation is the application of green plants and their associated microbial communities for the removal, stabilization or detoxification of contaminants in the environment. Salix discolor, commonly known as the pussy willow, is a common Canadian shrub that was evaluated for phytoremediation potential of lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using a short-term hydroponic species. Salix discolor was chosen because of the documented ability of willows to tolerate both lead and PAH contamination and their ability to sequester lead. The willows were grown in Hoagland's nutrient solution for four weeks for four weeks, and was subsequently spiked with lead and/or PAHs for an additional 4 weeks. The tissues were then dried and the lead and PAHs were extracted for analysis via atomic absorption spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, respectively. Issues with the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry instrument prevented analysis of the PAHs. There was no accumulation of lead within the leaf/shoot tissue of the willows, but there was between 2940-3450 ppm of lead accumulated within the root tissue. Furthermore, analysis of the growth medium at the conclusion of the experiment showed a decrease in lead concentration from 5 ppm to 0-0.2 ppm. Presence of either lead and/or PAHs did not significantly decrease the willows shoot growth [p=0.06] or decrease the transpiration rate of the willows [p=0.979]. Salix discolor appears to possess potential for the phytoremediation of lead and PAHs and should be evaluated in a more rigorous study using a soil medium.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International