Removal of Heavy Metal Pollutants by Wetland Plants

Therese Frauendorf Aquatic Conservation: Global Freshwaters, Science, and Policy

• Introduction • Mechanism of Heavy Metal Removal by Wetland Plants • The Effectiveness of Constructed Wetlands Compared to Wastewater Treatment Plants • Conclusion • Questions

• Goals
 Understand how heavy metals are removed from the water by wetland plants  Understand the effectiveness of wetland plants

• Wetlands: a lowland that is saturated with water • Heavy Metals in Water: Lead, Cadmium, Zinc, Mercury, Nickel, Copper • Most Studied and Effective Heavy Metal Removal Plants:
 Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)  Cattails (Typha)


• • • • •

Introduction Mechanism of Heavy Metal Removal by Wetland Plants The Effectiveness of Constructed Wetlands Compared to Wastewater Treatment Plants Conclusion Questions

Plant Requirements
• Heavy Metal Tolerance (Natural Selection) → metal specific • Shallow-rooted Plants: high metal uptake rate • Deep-rooted Plants: small metal uptake rate • Emergent vs. Surface Floating Plants • Heavy Metal Absorbance Rate: roots > rhizomes > shoots > leaves

Mechanism: Roots & Rhizomes
• Extended Root System fractionates & dissolves Organic Matter → decreases Turbidity → increases Electrical Charges • Optimize uptake by: pH, organic matter content, temperature, redox potential, turbidity
Cu2+ H2O Cd
2 +


Zn2+ H2O Pb2+ Diffusion: Cations
Osmosis: Water

Mechanism: Leaves, Petioles & Shoots
• Passively absorbed → Stoma Cells & Cracks in Cuticle
 Apparent Free Space (AFS): → Water Free Space: (WFS) absorbs H2O molecules & free mobile ions → Donnan Free Space: (DFS) absorbs free mobile ions through cell wall  Actively absorbed → Cytoplasm: move into vacuoles & various other cells via Plasmadesmata A


decrease in cell size
A. Cross section of leaf of water hyacinth control plant B. Cross section of leaf of water hyacinth experimental plant (100x) (Mahmood et al 2005).

• Transport of Solutes in Plants • Movement of Metal Containing Sap from Root to Shoot
 Takes place by root pressure or leaf transpiration  Slower than absorption by roots → limiting factor in uptake of metal

Movement of Oxygen from Shoot to Root
 Induces Oxygen leaks to the reduced environment  Promotes Oxyhydroxide (Fe3, Mn2) release → absorption sites for heavy metals
or Phloem


O2 Metals Oxyhydroxide

Plant Aid
• Plant metallothioneins: induced by metals like Cd and Cu and are part of the plant’s tolerance
 Participate in uptake, transport and regulation of metals → Thionein protein binds to metal for transportation  Detoxify mercury and other heavy metals by binding to them

• Rhizospheric bacteria and fungus increases feasibility and efficiency of phytoremediation by promoting accumulation of metals • Additional treatment with antibiotic Oxytetracycline (OTC) increases efficiency further (So et al 2993) • Microorganisms + Plants = Biosorption
Passive & metabolism-independent mechanism that removes metals by interactions with microbial biomass

• • • • •

Introduction Mechanism of Heavy Metal Removal by Wetland Plants The Effectiveness of Constructed Wetlands Compared to Wastewater Treatment Plants Conclusion Questions

The Benefits and Costs of an Artificial Constructed Wetland
Pros: • Aesthetics • Habitat Creation for Wildlife • Increased CostEfficiency • Little Maintenance Cons: • Susceptible to Climate and Disease • Limited Life Expectancy • Creation of Toxic Wetlands

Tres Rios Constructed Wetlands
• Demonstration Project near Phoenix, AZ
 Upgrade of Water Treatment Plant: $625mill  Cost of creation of the Wetland: $3.5mill  Cost of Water Treatment Plant Maintenance/Month: $1000  Cost of Wetland Maintenance/Month: “little to nothing” (Gelt 1997)

• •

Project for Treatment of Organic Matter → Estimate for Heavy Metal Removal Water Hyacinth & Cattails – high reproductive rate and very inexpensive (Weeds)
(Gelt 1997)

Toxic Wetlands?
Try to transform toxic heavy metals into mobile forms by changing physical & chemical characteristics: • Concentrating heavy metals in plant for convenient extraction → proper disposal or reuse of heavy metals → ex: Water Hyacinth • Detoxification:
 Metallothioneines  Balance of surface charge by free floating anions (HPO42-) and cations (K+)  Ingestion and metabolistic use of toxic metals by Microorganisms


• High concentrations of Heavy Metals can be toxic to plants → decrease of plant growth → harvesting of plants • Disposal of accumulated metal stored in plants → need of another disposal facility?

• Wetland plants limit the spread of Heavy Metals by storing them • The basic mechanism of Heavy Metal uptake by wetland plants like the water hyacinth and the cattails is well known • Further Research needs to be conducted:
 Conduct a study to see the effectiveness of wetlands removing heavy metals compared to a wastewater treatment plant  Key role of the collaboration between wetland plants, microorganism and bacteria to maximize uptake  Cost-effective method to increase uptake (OTC)  Develop a cost-effective and efficient way to dispose wetland plants containing heavy metals  Increase detoxification of Heavy Metals (Metallothioneins)



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