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Plants help dispose of toxic soil polluted by mining

Plants help dispose of toxic threat

French scientists study 'phytoextraction' as way of decontaminating soil polluted by mining.

Neatly aligned like baby lettuces, the sprouting plants look like a market garden. Come spring, when the sun of southern France brings them on, they will produce white, yellow and mauve flowers. But these plants are not decorative, less still edible. They grow on sterile clay soil full of toxic metals, at the bottom of a former tailing pond at Saint Laurent Le Minier in the Cévennes, where mining started in Roman times and only finally stopped in 1992. The concentrations of zinc, lead and cadmium are between 500 and 850 times higher than European standards allow.

No normal vegetation can stand such levels, apart from three local species that have developed an extraordinary survival strategy: sucking up the toxic substances through their roots and storing them in vacuoles in their leaves.

Nor are these normal gardeners, but rather scientists from the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE) at Montpellier University, affiliated with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). They are experimenting with environmentally friendly ways of decontaminating soil by phytoextraction.


For the full article please click on the link below………

Guardian Weekly - Pierre Le Hir