When conditions become complicated, there is no choice but to adapt to them. Plants have to do the same. Some of them growing in mining areas have unusual strengths, accustomed as they are to living in a toxic environment and knowing how to deal with this. Based on this capacity to adapt, researcher Ms Lur Epelde used these plants as medicinal herbs for contaminated soils.
The current level of contamination in the soil, caused by human intervention - is highly worrying. Nevertheless, more than the contamination as such, Ms Epelde was more interested in the effect these plants have on the health of the soil. The researcher puts forward phytoremediation as a means for confronting this problem; i.e. treating poor environments with these plants, without the need to excavate soil. Moreover, the idea is based on the microbiological properties of the soil itself to measure this technique: the mass of its microbian community, its activity and its biodiversity. The title of her PhD thesis is Evaluation of the efficiency of metal phytoremediation processes with microbiological indicators of soil health.
Technique adapted to each condition
Ms Epelde investigated, above all, pseudometalophyte plants - which grow in mining environments -, and the reaction they have to metals. To begin with, she linked Lanestosa of the thlaspi caerulescens species with zinc and cadmium. Lanestosa is a traditional mining town in the Encartaciones region near Bilbao and its namesake plant has optimum conditions for continuous phytoextraction (a process for differentiating metal from the rest of the elements). According to the research, it is capable of withstanding great concentrations of metal and also of accumulating considerable quantities of zinc and cadmium in its tissues that are in contact with the air. As with hyperaccumulator species such as this, large-sized plants are also effective. For example, sorghum has great potential for phytoextractin
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