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Environ Pollut. 2000 Aug;109(2):231-8.

Strategies of heavy metal uptake by three plant species growing near a metal smelter.

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INRA, Unité de Science du Sol, Route de St Cyr, 78026 Versailles Cedex, France.


Some higher plant species have developed heavy metal tolerance strategies which enable them to survive and reproduce in highly metal-contaminated soils. We have investigated such heavy metal uptake and accumulation strategies of two absolute metallophyte species (Armeria maritima ssp. halleri and Cardaminopsis halleri) and one pseudometallophyte (Agrostis tenuis) growing near a former metal smelter. Samples of plant parts and soil were analysed for Zn, Cd, Pb, and Cu. In soil, there were two dominant types of metal concentration gradients with depth. Under the absolute metallophytes, extremely high metal contents were measured in the surficial Ah horizon, followed by a strong decrease in the underlying soil horizons (L(11) and L(12)). Under the pseudometallophyte, metal concentrations in the Ah horizon were much lower and fewer differences were observed in metal concentrations among the Ah, L(11), and L(12) horizons. The concentrations of Zn, Cd, Pb, and Cu in Agrostis tenuis roots were greater than concentrations in leaves, indicating significant metal immobilisation by the roots. For C. halleri, Zn and Cd concentrations in leaves were >20,000 and >100 mg kg(-1), respectively, indicating hyperaccumulation of these elements. Armeria maritima ssp. halleri exhibited root concentrations of Pb and Cu that were 20 and 88 times greater, respectively, than those in green leaves, suggesting an exclusion strategy by metal immobilisation in roots. However, Zn, Cd, Pb, and Cu concentrations in brown leaves of Armeria maritima ssp. halleri were 3-8 times greater than in green leaves, suggesting a second strategy, i.e. detoxification mechanism by leaf fall.

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