Soil and Plant Factors Influencing the Accumulation of Heavy Metals by Plants
by D. A. Cataldo* and R. E. Wildung*
* Battelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratories, Richland, Washington, 99352.
The use of plants to monitor heavy metal pollution in the terrestrial environment must be based on a cognizance of the complicated, integrated effects of pollutant source and soil-plant variables. To be detectable in plants, pollutant sources must significantly increase the plant available metal concentration in soil. The major factor governing metal availability to plants in soils is the solubility of the metal associated with the solid phase, since in order for root uptake to occur, a soluble species must exist adjacent to the root membrane for some rinlte period. The rate of release and form of this soluble species will have a strong influence on the rate and extent of uptake and, perhaps, mobility and toxicity in the plant and consuming animals. The factors influencing solubility and form of available metal species in soil vary widely geographically and include the concentration and chemical form of the element entering soil, soil properties (endogenous metal concentration, mineralogy, particle size distribution), and soil processes (e.g., mineral weathering, microbial activity), as these influence the kinetics of sorption reactions, metal concentration in solution and the form of soluble and insoluble chemical species. The plant root represents the first barrier to the selective accumulation of ions present in soil solution. Uptake and kinetic data for nutrient ions and chemically related nonnutrient analogs suggest that metabolic processes associated with root absorption of nutrients regulate both the affinity and rate of absorption of specific nonnutrient ions. Detailed kinetic studies of Ni, Cd, and Tl uptake by intact plants demonstrate multiphasic root absorption processes over a broad concentration range, and the use of transport mechanisms in place for the nutrient ions Cu, Zn, and K. Advantages and limitations of higher plants as indicators of increased levels of metal pollution are discussed in terms of these soil and plant phenomena.
Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 27, pp. 149-159, 1978
The principal objectives of this review are to briefly describe the soil and plant factors influencing trace metal uptake by plants, and, with this information as a basis, illustrate some of the parameters which must be considered in using higher plants as indicators of increased levels of metals in the terrestrial environment.
In order to utilize plants as monitors of metal pollution in the field, it is necessary to distinguish between uptake arising from natural metal sources and from pollutant sources. Metals from both natural and pollutant sources have the potential for being assimilated by the plant through foliar or root absorption processes. The importance of foliar absorption processes for several heavy elements has been discussed elsewhere (1, 2). Separation of the sources of metals taken up by roots is complicated by the mediating effect of soil properties and soil and plant processes. These effects may be illustrated by examination of the concentration of metals in soil relative to possible increases due to pollutant sources and the soil and plant factors influencing plant accumulation of metals.