When soil tests confirm the presence of site contaminants, cost-effective phytotechnology (phytoremediation) plantings can often be effective in mitigating on-site pollutants. These interactions are complicated, sometimes taking decades for remediation, and many times plant-based remediation strategies are not a good fit for environmental cleanup.
Phytotechnology is the use of vegetation and their associated microbes to remediate, contain, or prevent contaminants in soils, sediments, and groundwater. The term ‘phytoremediation,’ where plants are used to remediate sites that are already polluted, is often used interchangeably with ‘phytotechnology,’ but is only one subset of the field. ‘Phytotechnology’ is a much broader term that includes techniques such as the pre-emptive installation of vegetation to mitigate ecological problems before they actually occur, as well as stabilization of pollutants on site, beyond just contaminant removal. Green roofs, constructed wetlands, bioswales, bioenergy crop cultivation, and phytoremediation plantings are all forms of ‘phytotechnology,’ a term which encompasses all uses of plants to meet environmental and technological goals.
Plants are a cost-effective method of tracking and mitigating contaminated landscapes. In this presentation, Kate Kennen will explain phytoremediation (plants uptake and remove contaminants) and phytoforensics (plants detect and delineate pollutants). She will discuss some of the limitations of phytoremediation, how to integrate the science of phytoremediation into landscape design practices, preventative (phytobuffering) capabilities, and recommend plant species that can be utilized.