Escola Superior de Biotecnologia

Phy2SUDOE aims to recover contaminated soils in southern Europe using Phyto-management strategies

Sunday, April 16, 2021 - 13:28

The Phy2SUDOE project aims to harness the results achieved during PhytoSUDOE project by increasing the transnational network of contaminated sites, and by incorporating companies, managers, and other economic agents to develop sustainable tools for the management of contaminated soils.

Phytomanagement combines phytotechnologies (use of plants and associated microorganisms to contain, extract or degrade soil pollutants) with sustainable site management practices where environmental benefits, such as the decrease of contaminants runoff, are allied with financial returns. The economic benefits are ensured by the use cash crops, such as poplar (Figure 1), to produce biomass for renewable energy and valuable materials such as wood, pulp and paper, and biochemicals. Phytomanagement also aims to be an alternative to traditional remediation technologies, which are generally based on physical-chemical techniques that are expensive and often have a negative impact on ecosystems. For this reason, in the last decade the use of biological technologies to remediate contaminated soils has been highly promoted, as they have low capital investment and energy requirements, and can improve soil health and functions.

The importance of soil
Soil is a natural resource that performs key functions for our survival and well-being, such as i) the production of food, fiber, and fuel; ii) the decomposition of organic matter; iii) the recycling of nutrients; iv) the purification of water; v) the sequestration of carbon; vi) the maintenance of biodiversity. This is why several of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development are linked, directly or indirectly, to soil protection.

There are at least 2.8 million potential contaminated sites in European Union due to polluting activities (Figure 2), threatening the environment and public health. Soil contamination prevents or limits soils' use for agricultural and forestry production, the creation of public parks, the establishment of new activities, etc.

Specifically, the Phy2SUDOE intends to:

  • Develop tools for evaluating the success of phytomanagement interventions, using as a backdrop the transnational network of sites established in the previous project - PhytoSUDOE;
  • Incorporate new typologies of contaminated sites as part of a transnational network;
  • Save unique biodiversity in contaminated sites: metallophytes plants and bacterial strains with potential for biotechnological applications.

In addition to developing innovative phytomanagement techniques, the project will develop a communication strategy and dissemination that will allow knowledge and results transfer to stakeholders such as farmers, industry and NGOs, communities and government organizations aiming at improving the integration of phytomanagement of contaminated soil, in a transnational level.

 Figure 1 - Experimental field with poplar plantation established at Borralha Mine under the PhytoSUDOE project.

Figure 2 – Borralha Mine, Montalegre.