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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Role of Aquatic Ecosystems in the Elimination of Pollutants

item Moore, Matthew
item Kroger, Robert
item Jackson, Colin

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/10/2010
Publication Date: 10/10/2010
Citation: Moore, M.T., Kroger, R., Jackson, C.R. 2010. The role of aquatic ecosystems in the elimination of pollutants. In: Sanchez-Bayo, F., van den Brink P. J., Mann, R. M. (Editors). Ecological Impacts of Toxic Chemicals. Bentham Science Publishers, Ltd. pp.288-304.

Interpretive Summary: Past and present research has demonstrated that native plants are able to act as sponges and soak up pollutants in runoff water. Whether the pollutant is a pesticide, excess nutrient, or metal, plants have demonstrated the ability to improve water quality in downstream aquatic receiving systems. This book chapter provides a basic review of the main processes involved in phytoremediation (using plants to clean up water or soil), as well as citing specific examples of successful studies for metals, pesticides, and excess nutrients.

Technical Abstract: Contamination of aquatic ecosystems is always of concern to environmental scientists; however, these systems also possess unique capabilities allowing them to eliminate or mitigate certain levels of pollutants. Primarily through the presence of vegetation, aquatic ecosystems are known to be capable of removing or at least decreasing pollutant loads existing in the aqueous phase. In addition to vegetation, soil / sediment and microbes play a significant role in transferring or transforming pollutants to acceptable levels in aquatic ecosystems. This chapter focuses on some of the primary literature describing phytoremediation of organic pollutants (e.g. hydrocarbons and pesticides) and inorganic pollutants (e.g. metals and nutrients). Research indicates the popularity and success of phytoremediation techniques used to clean up both organic and inorganic pollutants from the water column. While certain caution should always be exercised, phytoremediation continues to serve as a successful means of pollutant remediation in aquatic ecosystems.

Last Modified: 06/21/2017
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