A comparison of chelator-facilitated metal uptake by a halophyte and a glycophyte

Fional L. Jordan, Molly Robin-Abbott, Raina M. Maier, Edward P. Glenn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Phytoextraction is the use of plants to remove contaminants, in particular metals, from soil via root uptake and translocation to the shoots. Efficient phytoextraction requires high-biomass plants with efficient translocating properties. Halophytes characteristically accumulate large quantities of salts in aboveground tissue material and can have high biomass production. It has been speculated that salt-tolerant plants may also be heavy metal tolerant and, further, may be able to accumulate metals. This study compared growth and metal uptake by a halophyte, Atriplex nummularia, and a common glycophyte, Zea mays, in a mineailing contaminated soil:mulch mixture. Two chelators, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) and rhamnolipid, were used to facilitate plant metal uptake. Despite a lower growth rate (2% growth/d) in the contaminated soil, the halophyte accumulated roughly the same amount of metals as the glycophyte on a mass basis (30-40 mg/kg dry wt). Neither plant, however, hyperaccumulated any of the metals tested. When treated with EDTA, specific differences in patterns of metal uptake between the two plants emerged. The halophyte accumulated significantly more Cu (2x) and Pb (1 x) in the shoots than the glycophyte, but root metal concentrations were generally higher for the glycophyte, indicating that the halophyte translocated more metal from the root to the shoot than the glycophyte. For example, Zn shoot-to-root ratios ranged from 1.4 to 2.1 for Atriplex and from 0.5 to 0.6 for Z. mays. The biodegradable chelator rhamnolipid was not effective at enhancing shoot metal concentrations, even though radiolabeled chelator was found in the shoot material of both plants. Our results suggest that halophytes, despite their slower growth rates, may have greater potentiaL to selectively phytoextract metals from contaminated soils than glycophytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2698-2704
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Chelator
  • Halophytes
  • Heavy metals
  • Phytoextraction
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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