MANAGEMENT

Study: Plants can mitigate iron mine tailings

The findings may allow scientists to design better phytoremediation strategies

Southern cattails have been found to help in remediation after tailings disasters

Southern cattails have been found to help in remediation after tailings disasters

Brazilian scientists have found that Southern cattail plants can act as a phytoremediation tool in areas inundated by iron ore waste tailings, Phys.org reported.

In a study published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, the scientists concluded that Southern cattails (Typha domingensis) are effective at remediating water and soil following contamination by iron ore tailings because of their root system.

"Our study concluded that T. domingensis was more efficient than H. tiliaceus [beach hibiscus] because its root system had far greater acidification capacity, and also because it accumulated more iron in the aerial portions," Agencia FAPESP quoted Tiago Osorio Ferreira, who worked on the article. Ferreira is a professor in soil science at the University of Sao Paolo.

"Besides accumulating more iron in the aerial portions and being easier to manage, it's also preferable to h. tiliaceus because it grows faster."

Southern cattail has a large system of roots, and is able to oxygenate a substantial amount of iron, the study found. Scientists have measured ten times more iron per kilo of dry matter in Southern cattails than in beach hibiscus.

The scientists had been observing the areas affected by the Vale iron ore tailings waste disasters of 2019.

"After the flood of tailings from the Mariana disasters, many of these islands became colonised by plants, and later there was substantial growth of cattails," Ferreira said.

The findings may allow scientists and conservation professionals to design better phytoremediation strategies for areas inundated with tailings waste, Ferreira said.

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