Resource recovery and freshwater ecosystem restoration — Prospecting for phytoremediation potential in wild macrophyte stands



Fletcher J, Willby N, Oliver DM & Quilliam RS (2022) Resource recovery and freshwater ecosystem restoration — Prospecting for phytoremediation potential in wild macrophyte stands. Resources, Environment and Sustainability, 7, Art. No.: 100050.

The primary aim of this study was to understand the factors, e.g., harvest frequency and plant community type, that can facilitate optimising phytoextraction in wild macrophyte communities as part of a strategy for water-quality improvement and resource recovery. This was achieved by surveying wild macrophyte communities and quantifying standing stocks of key nutrient pollutants such as N and P, and a range of other recoverable macro and micro-nutrients (Ca, K, Mg, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Zn, Na and Cr). By scaling-up the pollutant export potential over a decade, it was determined which harvest strategy and plant community types provide the greatest levels of nutrient export. Grime’s CSR plant strategy framework was used to categorise each surveyed community, where large-statured, higher biomass producing competitor and stress tolerator-type communities were compared with ruderal-type communities that have rapid growth and high nutrient acquisition but smaller standing biomass and statures. High biomass plant communities containing competitor or stress tolerator species, produce greater standing stocks of macronutrients (such as N and P) for harvesting, while yields of micronutrient-type pollutants are more likely to be influenced by specific physiological traits that determine leaf tissue concentration. Utilising a high frequency harvest regime over a multi-year time scale suggested that small fast-growing ruderals could yield 4–6 times the concentration of macronutrients and micronutrients for export compared to competitor or stress tolerator-dominated communities e.g., P yields from ruderals were 25 g/m2 versus 5 g/m2 from competitor/stress tolerator-dominated communities. These results emphasise the need to consider both the plant community and the harvesting regime when using phytoextraction as a management tool. We anticipate that these results will help guide environmental managers in their approach in developing circular economy schemes that improve water quality through nutrient export.

Phytoextraction; Eutrophication; Diffuse pollution; Nature-based solutions; Circular economy

Resources, Environment and Sustainability: Volume 7

FundersScottish Government
Publication date31/03/2022
Publication date online28/02/2022
Date accepted by journal13/02/2022
PublisherElsevier BV

People (3)


Dr David Oliver
Dr David Oliver

Associate Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Professor Richard Quilliam
Professor Richard Quilliam

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Professor Nigel Willby
Professor Nigel Willby

Professor & Associate Dean of Research, Biological and Environmental Sciences

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