iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Heavy metals and woody plants - biotechnologies for phytoremediation

Maurizio Capuana   

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 7-15 (2011)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor0555-004
Published: Jan 27, 2011 - Copyright © 2011 SISEF

Review Papers

Soil contamination by heavy metals is among the most serious danger for the environment, and new methods for its containment and removal are claimed, in particular for agricultural soils. Phytoremediation is an emerging, potentially effective technology applicable to restoration of contaminated soils and waters. Besides hyperaccumulator herbaceous plants, several woody species are now considered of interest to this aim. Many woody plants are fast growing, have deep roots, produce abundant biomass, are easy to harvest, and several species revealed some capacity to tolerate and accumulate heavy metals. Biotechnologies are now available for investigating this potential and enlarge the possibilities of exploitation of trees for remediation. The use of in vitro cultures, the role of bacteria and mychorrhizas, the powerful tool of genetic engineering, are some of the aspects focused in this paper that open prospects of global relevance for a better understanding of the processes related to the uptake of heavy metals by woody plants. In recent years significant progress has been made in identifying native plants and developing genetically modified tree plants for the remediation of heavy-metal polluted environment. Despite the intensive research developed in the last years, few field trials demonstrated the feasibility of the approach described, therefore much efforts should be addressed to this goal.


Engineering, In vitro culture, Michorrhyzas, Pollution, Trees

Authors’ address

Maurizio Capuana
Plant Genetics Institute, Italian National Council of Research, v. Madonna del Piano 10, I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze, Italy)

Corresponding author

Maurizio Capuana


Capuana M (2011). Heavy metals and woody plants - biotechnologies for phytoremediation. iForest 4: 7-15. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0555-004

Paper history

Received: Sep 01, 2010
Accepted: Nov 22, 2010

First online: Jan 27, 2011
Publication Date: Jan 27, 2011
Publication Time: 2.20 months

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