Phytoremediation is a quite novel technique to clean polluted soils using plants. In theory, phytoremediation methods are cheap, are accepted by the public and, compared to physical or chemical approaches, are ecologically advantageous. Until today, however, there are only a few examples of successful applications. One reason is that the processes involved are complex, and a full clean up may require many years. Plants affect the water balance of a site, they change redox potential and pH, and stimulate microbial activity of the soil. These indirect influences may accelerate degradation in the root zone or reduce leaching of compounds to groundwater. Compounds taken up into plants may be metabolised, accumulated, or volatilised into air. Based on these processes, several phytoremediation methods have been developed: Phytoextraction, rhizofiltration, phytostabilisation, rhizo and phytodegradation, pump and tree, land farming, phytovolatilisation, hydraulic control and more. Already in use are plants (and here willow, poplar and grass) for the degradation of petroleum products, aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX), chlorinated solvents, explosives and cyanides. However, phytotoxicity and pollutant mass balances were rarely documented. Often, the success of the projects was not controlled, and only estimates can be made about the applicability and the potential of phytoremediation. This lack of experience about possibilities and limitations seems to be a hindrance for a broader use of these techniques.
- review articles