Phytoremediation potential depends on the degree of soil pollution: a case study in an urban brownfield

Fernández-Braña, L. Salgado, J. L. R. Gallego, E. Afif, C. Boente, R. Forján Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2023,

Phytoremediation is a cost-effective nature-based solution for brownfield reclamation. The choice of phytoextraction or phytostabilization strategies is highly relevant when planning full-scale treatments. A suitable approach to identify such species involves the evaluation of plants that grow spontaneously on the contaminated sites. Here, we sought to determine the phytoremediation potential of three spontaneous plant species, namely the trees Acer pseudoplatanus L (A. pseudoplatanus) and Betula celtiberica Rothm. & Vasc (B. celtiberica), and the shrub Buddleja davidii Franch (B. davidii), for the recovery of an urban brownfield. To determine the response of the species to the degree of contamination, we conducted soil and vegetation sampling inside and outside the site. The concentrations of As, Cu, and Zn in soil and plant samples were measured, and then various indexes related to phytoremediation were calculated. The translocation factor and transfer coefficient indicated that vegetation outside the brownfield had phytoextraction capacity while the same plants inside the brownfield revealed phytostabilization properties. Given our results, we propose that the selected species are suitable for phytostabilization strategies in areas with high concentrations of contaminants, whereas they could be used for phytoextraction only in soils with low or moderate levels of pollution.