Plant community tolerant to trace elements growing on the degraded soils of São Domingos mine in the south east of Portugal: environmental implications.Environ Int. 2004 Mar; 30(1):65-72.EI
The selection of trace element tolerant species is a key factor to the success of remediation of degraded mine soils. Mining activities generate a large amount of waste rocks and tailings, which get deposited at the surface. The degraded soils, the waste rocks and tailings are often very unstable and will become sources of pollution. The direct effects will be the loss of cultivated land, forest or grazing land, and the overall loss of production. The indirect effects will include air and water pollution and siltation of rivers. These will eventually lead to the loss of biodiversity, amenity and economic wealth. Restoration of a vegetation cover can fulfil the objectives of stabilization, pollution control, visual improvement and removal of threats to human beings. Thus, remediation of mine spoils/tailings and biogeochemical prospecting would rely on the appropriate selection of plant species. Plant community responds differently on their ability to uptake or exclude a variety of metals. In this work, plant species were sampled from all populations established in an abandoned copper mine of São Domingos, SE Portugal. Plants belonging to 24 species, 16 genera and 13 families were collected from the degraded copper mine of São Domingos. Plant samples were analysed for total Ag, As, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn. The highest concentrations of metals in soils dry matter were 11217.5 mg Pb kg(-1), 1829 mg Cu kg(-1), 1291 mg As kg(-1), 713.7 mg Zn kg(-1), 84.6 mg Cr kg(-1), 54.3 mg Co kg(-1), 52.9 mg Ni kg(-1) and 16.6 mg Ag kg(-1). With respect to plants, the higher concentrations of Pb and As were recorded in the semi-aquatic species Juncus conglomeratus with 84.8 and 23.5 mg kg(-1) dry weight (DW), Juncus efusus with 22.4 and 8.5 mg kg(-1) DW, and Scirpus holoschoenus with 51.7 and 8.0 mg kg(-1) DW, respectively. Thymus mastichina also showed high content of As in the aboveground parts, 13.6 mg kg(-1) DW. Overall, the results indicate accumulation of various metals by different plant species, with some of these metals being partitioned to the shoots. Environmental implications of these observations are discussed.