Plants from the abandoned Nacozari mine tailings: Evaluation of their phytostabilization potential

Alina E. Santos, Rocio Cruz-Ortega, Diana Meza-Figueroa, Francisco M. Romero, Jose Jesus Sanchez-Escalante, Raina M. Maier, Julia W. Neilson, Luis David Alcaraz, Francisco E.Molina Freaner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Phytostabilization is a remediation technology that uses plants for in-situ stabilization of contamination in soils and mine tailings. The objective of this study was to identify native plant species with potential for phytostabilization of the abandoned mine tailings in Nacozari, Sonora in northern Mexico. A flora of 42 species in 16 families of angiosperms was recorded on the tailings site and the abundance of the most common perennial species was estimated. Four of the five abundant perennial species showed evidence of regeneration: the ability to reproduce and establish new seedlings. A comparison of selected physicochemical properties of the tailings in vegetated patches with adjacent barren areas suggests that pH, electrical conductivity, texture, and concentration of potentially toxic elements do not limit plant distribution. For the most abundant species, the accumulation factor for most metals was < 1, with the exception of Zn in two species. A short-term experiment on adaptation revealed limited evidence for the formation of local ecotypes in Prosopis velutina and Amaranthus watsonii. Overall, the results of this study indicate that five native plant species might have potential for phytostabilization of the Nacozari tailings and that seed could be collected locally to revegetate the site. More broadly, this study provides a methodology that can be used to identify native plants and evaluate their phytostabilization potential for similar mine tailings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3280
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2017


  • Copper mine tailings
  • Mexico
  • Phytostabilization
  • Sonora

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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