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Volume 4, Pages 9-34
Review Article

The Use of Plants for Remediation of Metal-Contaminated Soils

1Department of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, Agricultural University of Plovdiv, 4000 Plovdiv, Bulgaria
2Laboratory for Environmental Biotechnology, EPFL, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland
3Centre for Environmental Sciences, Limburgs Universitair Centrum, B-3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
4Brookhaven National Laboratory, Biology Department, Upton, NY 11973, USA

Received 26 September 2003; Revised 18 December 2003; Accepted 22 December 2003

Academic Editor: William J. Manning

Copyright © 2004 Andon Vassilev et al.


The use of green plants to remove, contain, inactivate, or degrade harmful environmental contaminants (generally termed phytoremediation) is an emerging technology. In this paper, an overview is given of existing information concerning the use of plants for the remediation of metal-contaminated soils. Both site decontamination (phytoextraction) and stabilization techniques (phytostabilization) are described. In addition to the plant itself, the use of soil amendments for mobilization (in case of phytoextraction) and immobilization (in case of phytostabilization) is discussed. Also, the economical impacts of changed land-use, eventual valorization of biomass, and cost-benefit aspects of phytoremediation are treated. In spite of the growing public and commercial interest and success, more fundamental research is needed still to better exploit the metabolic diversity of the plants themselves, but also to better understand the complex interactions between metals, soil, plant roots, and micro-organisms (bacteria and mycorrhiza) in the rhizosphere. Further, more demonstration experiments are needed to measure the underlying economics, for publicacceptance and last but not least, to convince policy makers.