HEAVY METALS BIOABSORPTION AND SOIL STABILIZATION BY <em>Sarcocornia neei</em> FROM EXPERIMENTAL SOILS CONTAINING MINE TAILINGS

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Bernardo Sepúlveda
Mario Tapia
Patricia Tapia
Francisca Milla
Osvaldo Pavez

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In the Atacama region of northern Chile, there are a large number of abandoned mines and dams with tailings and little flora development. Sarcocornia neei, a halophytic plant growing in Chilean coastal areas, is highly tolerant to contaminated soils associated with mine tailings. The potential for bioabsorption of heavy metals and arsenic and the substrate stabilization by this species was evaluated in soil experimentally contaminated with mine tailings from the Copiapó Valley. Sarcocornia neei grew well, although more slowly, in experimental soils containing mainly Fe, Cu and Mn. In an advanced vegetative development stage, S. neei roots were able to stabilize the contaminated experimental soils, agglomerating them in more than 80 % and extracting chemical elements from them. These characteristics are potentially useful for phytoremediation and reduction of contamination by fine-size particles from mine tailings and contaminated soils.

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