Phytostabilization potential of quailbush for mine tailings: Growth, metal accumulation, and microbial community changes

Monica O. Mendez, Edward P. Glenn, Raina M. Maier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Abandoned mine tailings sites in semiarid regions remain unvegetated for extended periods of time and are subject to eolian dispersion and water erosion. This study examines the potential phytostabilization of a lead-zinc mine tailings site using a native, drought-tolerant halophyte, quailbush [Atriplex lentiformis (Torr.) S. Wats.]. In a greenhouse study germination, growth, and metal uptake was evaluated in two compost-amended mine tailings samples, K4 (pH 3) and K6 (pH 6) at 75, 85, 90, 95, and 100% mine tailings, and two controls, off-site and compost. Microbial community changes were monitored by performing MPN analysis of iron- and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria as well as heterotrophic plate counts. Results demonstrate that germination is not a good indicator for phytostabilization since it was only inhibited in the unamended K4 treatment Plant growth was significantly reduced in 95 and 100% mine tailings, while growth in 75, 85, and 90% treatments was similar to the off-site control. Quailbush accumulated elevated levels of the nutrient metals Na, K, Mn, and Zn in the shoot tissues; however, metal accumulation was generally below the domestic animal toxicity limit Initially, autotrophic population estimates were four to six logs higher than heterotrophic counts, indicating extremely stressed conditions. However, post-harvest, heterotrophic bacterial counts increased to normal levels (∼106 CFU g-1 dry tailings) and dominated the rhizosphere. Therefore, with compost amendment, quailbush has good potential as a native species candidate for phytostabilization of mine tailings in semiarid environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-253
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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