Aoife Brennan, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK

October - December 2012

STSM project: Plant ecophysiological responses when using biochar amendments for the remediation of soils co-contaminated with inorganic elements and organic compounds

Aoife was awarded a three month STSM to work in collaboration with Dr Eduardo Moreno Jimenez at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) in Spain.

Aoife's PhD research at the University of Strathclyde is focused on the characterisation and remediation of contaminated soil environments, particularly for organic contaminants. Her current research interests are contaminant bioavailability and the use of biochar in remediation.

The STSM work in Spain hypothesised that biochar amendment would affect plant response in contaminated environments and the experiments carried out were designed to address this. Two of the experiments are summarised below.

A plant pot experiment growing maize in a soil contaminated with both organic contaminants and potentially toxic elements investigated the effect of char and activated carbon amendment on plant health parameters and contaminant uptake. Char and activated carbon addition improved the measured plant health parameters and reduced contaminant uptake but the effects on overall bioavailability, estimated from soil pore water concentrations, were less clear-cut.

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Fig. 1 Plant pot experiment

A root exploration study also using maize was carried out in rhizoboxes using a mine-spoil soil and two different chars and found that biochar amendment favoured larger leaf area, greater root biomass, reduced contaminant uptake and promoted young root establishment.

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Fig. 2 Rhizobox experiment

Aoife and Eduardo's collaboration, enabled by the STSM funding, has generated results that further highlight the potentially beneficial effects of amending contaminated soils with biochar and activated carbons.

Read Aoife's STSM Project Proposal on Plant ecophysiological responses when using biochar amendments for the remediation of soils co-contaminated with inorganic elements and organic compounds

Aoife Brennan published an article in Plant and Soil based on the experiments carried out during her STSM:

Brennan et al. (2014): Effects of biochar amendment on root traits and contaminant availability of maize plants in a copper and arsenic impacted soil

Furthermore, another article on work carried out during this STSM is about to be published!