May 24, 2009 Researchers of the University of Seville and IRNASE (Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology), of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) have verified in controlled trials the efficiency of Erica andevalensis, or heather from Andévalo -- an endemic shrub from the province of Huelva and the Portuguese area of the Alentejo -- in the recovery of soils contaminated with heavy metals.
This shrub is characterized by growing in acid soils and areas with a high mining activity. The research group of the Faculty of Medicine of Seville University, led by Professor Benito Valdés, has validated this natural recovery model in an article published in journal Science Total Environment. Andalusian scientists will expand their studies in the river Odiel basin and those of Riotinto (Huelva) and the Portuguese mining areas of Baixo Alentejo.
Researchers, led by Dr. Sabina Rossini Oliva, carried out studies on cryo-scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in different field samples. This way the team found and quantified the distribution of the different chemicals in leaves, stems and roots. The analysis revealed that the heather from Andévalo is a specie that does adapt to draughtiness and hydric stress; which does not have mechanisms of compartimentación for copper-‘we had not found a place in the plant accumulating such metal', Dr. Rossini pointed out; and it is capable of blocking lead and iron at a radical level, thus avoiding their toxic effects in the plant. ‘That is to say, it is a specie that is suitable to revegetate polluted soil' the researcher assured.
These results are part of a research project on the mechanisms of resistance to heavy metals in important species of Riotinto mining area, financed by Ramón Areces foundation; and another one on the effects of anthropic perturbations to a threatened endemic species -- Erica andavalensis: mechanisms of resistance to heavy metals and implications in its preservation, by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science.
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