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Forest Disturbance Processes

Phytoremediation of Inorganic Contaminants

Research Issue

[photo:] Poplar trees used for phytoremediation at a landfill in northern Wisconsin.Increasing human population levels at regional, national, and global scales have heightened the need for proper management of residential and industrial waste. Contaminants from this waste stream have polluted water, air, and soil much faster than traditional technologies could remediate the problem. Therefore, we are combining intensive forestry and waste management methods to increase the potential for producing woody crops for energy and fiber, along with decreasing the environmental degradation associated with waste disposal and subsequent wastewater production. This research is necessary given increasing alternative energy needs coupled with elevated waste production at regional and national scales.

Our Research

We have conducted decades of research and development on growing trees quickly for multiple societal benefits. This knowledge has led to our sustainable recycling of wastewaters as irrigation and fertilization for poplars, willows, and other short rotation woody crops. In addition to biomass potential, our phytotechnologies research includes testing the ability for uptake of inorganic contaminants into root, leaf, and woody (stem + branch) tissues during sustainable production of alternative biomass feedstock for bioenergy in phytoremediation systems. For example, we are testing the extent of environmental sustainability while using recycled and reused wastewaters (e.g., landfill leachate and papermill fibercake effluent) to provide moisture and nutrients to the trees. Similarly, we conduct phytoremediation of contaminated soils at brownfields, military installations, industrial production facilities, and other liability lands along the urban to rural continuum.

Expected Outcomes

Our collective effort helps scientists and resource managers acquire information about the response of specific tree species and varieties to wide-ranging contamination sources. The trees take up some of the contaminants and, therefore, greatly reduce the potential for leaching into the soil and nearby waterways. Our information contributes to production of closed loop energy systems that are ecologically sustainable, while protecting environmental quality and the natural resource base on which local and regional agriculture, forestry, and recreation depend. Additional environmental benefits include increased renewable energy biomass and sequestered carbon, as well as reduced fossil fuel consumption.

Research Results

Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B. 2015. Biomass fly ash as foliar fertilizer for hybrid aspen trees: nutrient uptake, growth response, and compatibility with nitrogen fertilizer. Journal of Plant Nutrition 38:647-662.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L. 2014. Using environmental remediation to enhance afforestation and reforestation. In: 3rd Science in the Northwoods Conference; October 15-17, 2014; Boulder Junction, WI.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L.; Gopalakrishnan, G.; Hall, R.B.; Hazel, D.W.; Isebrands, J.G.; Negri, M.C.; Guthrie-Nichols, E.; Rockwood, D.L. 2014. Ecosystem services of poplar at long-term phytoremediation sites in the Midwest and Southeast, United States. In: International Poplar Symposium VI; July 20-23, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L.; Page-Dumroese, D.S. 2014. Application of phyto-recurrent selection: poplars grown in biochar-amended soils. In: International Poplar Symposium VI; July 20-23, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.   

Burken, J.G.; Zalesny, R.S. Jr.; Kennan, K. 2013. Valuation of phytotechnology benefits: more than just ‘aesthetically pleasing’. In: 10th International Phytotechnologies Conference; October 1-4, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA.

Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2013. Interpreting hybrid poplar responses to soil and foliar applications of bioenergy byproducts via vector analysis. In: 10th International Phytotechnologies Conference; October 1-4, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2013. A review of ecosystem services associated with using Populus for phytotechnologies. In: 10th International Phytotechnologies Conference; October 1-4, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA.  

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R. 2013. Short Rotation Populus: A Bibliography of North American Literature, 1989 – 2011. Gen. Tech. Report NRS-P-110. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 103.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L.; Gopalakrishnan, G.; Hall, R.B.; Hazel, D.W.; Isebrands, J.G.; Negri, M.C.; Guthrie-Nichols, E.; Rockwood, D.L. 2013. Growth, biomass productivity, and aboveground carbon storage of poplar at long-term phytotechnology installations. In: 10th International Phytotechnologies Conference; October 1-4, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA.  

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Headlee, W.L.; Page-Dumroese, D.S. 2013. Using phyto-recurrent selection to identify favorable Populus genotypes grown in biochar-amended soils. In: 10th International Phytotechnologies Conference; October 1-4, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA.   

Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2012. Biochar as a substitute for vermiculite in soilless potting media: cation exchange and nutrient effects. In: 9th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Phytotechnologies – Plant-based Strategies to Clean Water, Soil, Air and Provide Ecosystem Services; September 11-14, 2012; Hasselt, University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.

Headlee, W.L.; Hall, R.B.; Zalesny, R.S. Jr. 2012. Biomass fly ash as foliar fertilizer: effects on growth and nutrient content of hybrid aspen trees. In: 9th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Phytotechnologies – Plant-based Strategies to Clean Water, Soil, Air and Provide Ecosystem Services; September 11-14, 2012; Hasselt, University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2012. A review of North American Populus phytotechnologies research published from 1989 to 2011. In: 9th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Phytotechnologies – Plant-based Strategies to Clean Water, Soil, Air and Provide Ecosystem Services; September 11-14, 2012; Hasselt, University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2012. Improving ecosystem services via phytotechnologies in urban areas. In: Indiana Urban Forest Council Summer Workshop; July 18, 2012; Terre Haute, IN.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2012. Using phytotechnologies to improve ecosystem services in urban areas. In: 2012 Annual Conference of the American Society of Consulting Arborists; November 28-December 1, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Hallett, R.; Falxa-Raymond, N.; Grassi, C. 2012. Improving ecosystem health and functioning through phytotechnologies at Freshkills Park, Staten Island, New York, USA. In: 9th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Phytotechnologies – Plant-based Strategies to Clean Water, Soil, Air and Provide Ecosystem Services; September 11-14, 2012; Hasselt, University, Diepenbeek, Belgium.

Coyle, D.R.; Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H. 2011. Irrigating poplar energy crops with landfill leachate negatively affects soil micro- and meso-fauna. International Journal of Phytoremediation 13:845-858.

Evett, S.R.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Kandil, N.F.; Stanturf, J.A.; Soriano, C. 2011. Opportunities for woody crop production using treated wastewater in Egypt. II. Irrigation strategies. International Journal of Phytoremediation 13(S1):122-139.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2011. Linkages among carbon, climate; energy of Populus trees grown for phytotechnologies. In: 8th Conference of the International Phytotechnology Society: Putting Plants to Work Where We Live, Labor, Breathe, Play; September 13-16, 2011; Portland, OR.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Stanturf, J.A.; Evett, S.R.; Kandil, N.F.; Soriano, C. 2011. Opportunities for woody crop production using treated wastewater in Egypt. I. Afforestation strategies. International Journal of Phytoremediation 13(S1):102-121.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A. 2011. Clonal variation in lateral and basal rooting of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. Silvae Genetica 60:35-44.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A. 2010. Using phytotechnologies to remediate brownfields, landfills, and other urban areas. In: MillionTreesNYC, Green Infrastructure, and Urban Ecology: A Research Symposium; March 5-6, 2010; New York, NY.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A. 2010. Using phytotechnologies to remediate brownfields, landfills, and other urban areas. Cities and the Environment Journal 3:25.

Zalesny, J.A.; Coyle, D.R.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H. 2009. Effects of irrigating poplar energy crops with landfill leachate on soil micro- and meso-fauna. In: Sixth International Phytotechnologies Conference; December 2-4, 2009; St. Louis, MO. p 182.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O. 2009. Clonal variation in morphology of Populus root systems following irrigation with landfill leachate or water during two years of establishment. BioEnergy Research 2:134-143.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2009. Integrating phytotechnologies with energy crop production for biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts. In: Sixth International Phytotechnologies Conference; December 2-4, 2009; St. Louis, MO. p 70.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Evett, S.R.; Kandil, N.F.; Soriano, C.; Stanturf, J.A. 2009. Opportunities for woody crop production using treated wastewater in Egypt. In: Sixth International Phytotechnologies Conference; December 2-4, 2009; St. Louis, MO. p 60.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Bauer, E.O.; Riemenschneider, D.E. 2009. Ex situ growth and biomass of Populus bioenergy crops irrigated and fertilized with landfill leachate. Biomass Bioenergy 33:62-69.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B.; Bauer, E.O. 2008. Populus root system morphology during phytoremediation of landfill leachate. In: Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts from sustainable agricultural and forest crops: proceedings of the Short Rotation Crops International Conference; August 18-22, 2008; Bloomington, MN. Gen Tech Report NRS-P-31. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 70.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.T.; Hall, R.B. 2008. Uptake of macro- and micro-nutrients into leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus after irrigation with landfill leachate. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 27:303-327.

Zalesny, R.S,. Jr.; Zalesny, J.A. 2008. Variation in lateral and basal adventitious rooting of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate: selection of favorable genotypes for environmental benefits. In: Biofuels, bioenergy, and bioproducts from sustainable agricultural and forest crops: proceedings of the Short Rotation Crops International Conference; August 18-22, 2008; Bloomington, MN. Gen Tech Report NRS-P-31. Newtown Square, PA; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. p 73.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Growth and biomass of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. Forest Ecology and Management 248:143-152.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Coyle, D.R.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Leaf, woody, and root biomass of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: 2007 Annual Meeting of the Poplar Council of Canada: Poplar culture: a collaborative effort from clone to mill; September 16-21, 2007; Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. p 69.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Sexton, B.; Hall, R.B. 2007. Macro- and micro-nutrient concentration in leaf, woody, and root tissue of Populus irrigated with landfill leachate. In: Fourth International Phytotechnologies Conference; September 24-26, 2007; Denver, CO. p 146.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Bauer, E.O. 2007. Evaluation of Populus and Salix continuously irrigated with landfill leachate I. Genotype-specific elemental phytoremediation. International Journal of Phytoremediation 9:281-306.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Bauer, E.O. 2007. Evaluation of Populus and Salix continuously irrigated with landfill leachate II. Soils and early tree development. International Journal of Phytoremediation 9:307-323.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Bauer, E.O.; Zalesny, J.A. 2007. Establishment and early growth of Populus hybrids irrigated with landfill leachate. In: Fourth International Phytotechnologies Conference; September 24-26, 2007; Denver, CO. p 147.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Zalesny, J.A.; Bauer, E.O. 2007. Ecological sustainability of alternative biomass feedstock production for environmental benefits and bioenergy. In: Fourth International Phytotechnologies Conference; September 24-26, 2007; Denver, CO. p 62.

Coleman, M.D.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr. 2006. Annotated bibliography on phytoremediation. Wildlife Habitat Council Land Restoration. Posted May 1, 2006 at  (http://www.wildlifehc.org/brownfield_restoration/Technical_Info.cfm). 21 p.

Zalesny, J.A.; Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Hall, R.B.; Sexton, B. 2006. Phytoremediation of landfill leachate using Populus. In: Seventh Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group: Short rotation woody crop production systems for wood products, bioenergy and environmental services; September 25-28, 2006; Pasco, WA. p 52.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Bauer, E.O.; Riemenschneider, D.E. 2006. Sapflow of hybrid poplar (Populus nigra L. × P. maximowiczii A. Henry ‘NM6’) during phytoremediation of landfill leachate. Biomass and Bioenergy 30:784-793.

Zalesny, R.S., Jr.; Wiese, A.H.; Bauer, E.O.; Riemenschneider, D.E.; Sexton, B. 2004. Water usage and establishment success of Populus during phytoremediation of landfill effluent. In: Fifth Biennial Conference of the Short Rotation Woody Crops Operations Working Group/IEA Bioenergy (Task 30)/IUFRO Working Unit 1.09.01:  Biomass and bioenergy production for economic and environmental benefits; November 7-10, 2004; Charleston, SC. p 71.

 

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Ronald S. Zalesny Jr., US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Team Leader, Research Plant Geneticist

Research Partners

  • William L. Headlee, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
  • Edmund O. Bauer, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Technician Emeritus
  • Richard B. Hall, Iowa State University, Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Ames, IA
  • Adam H. Wiese, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Forestry Technician
  • Bruce A. Birr, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Laboratory Technician
  • Gayathri Gopalakrishnan, Space Science Institute, Boulder, CO
  • Dennis W. Hazel, North Carolina State University, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, Raleigh, NC
  • J.G. Isebrands, Environmental Forestry Consultants, New Longdon, WI
  • M. Cristina Negri, Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL
  • Elizabeth Guthrie Nichols, North Carolina State University, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, Raleigh, NC
  • Donald L. Rockwood, University of Florida, School of Forest Resources and Conservation, Gainesville, FL
  • Joel G. Burken, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, Rolla, MO
  • Jill A. Zalesny, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Research Volunteer (Plant Physiologist)
  • David R. Coyle, University of Georgia, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, GA
  • John A. Stanturf, US Forest Service Southern Research Station, Center for Forest Disturbance Science, Athens, GA
  • Steven R. Evett, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, Bushland, TX
  • Chris Soriano, US Forest Service, International Programs, Middle East Program, Washington, DC
  • Nabil F. Kandil, Soils, Water, and Environment Research Institute, Agricultural Research Center, El-Giza, Egypt

Last Modified: December 7, 2015