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Minerva Biotecnologica 2001 June;13(2):135-40

Copyright © 2001 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Remediation of wetlands by Phragmites australis. The biological basis

Massacci A., Pietrini F., Iannelli M. A.

CNR, Istituto di Biochimica ed Ecofisiologia Vegetali, Monterotondo Scalo (Roma), Italy


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Phragmites aus­tra­lis is a rhi­zom­a­tous ­plant of the Poaceae fam­i­ly ­with the wid­est geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­bu­tion of any flow­er­ing ­plant. It ­often ­invades wet­lands ­where ­with its vig­or­ous prop­a­ga­tion can out­com­pete ­rare ­plant com­mu­nities. On the oth­er ­hand, inva­sion by ­this spe­cies in ­water pol­lut­ed hab­i­tats ­seems to be ben­e­fi­cial, and the ­decline of its pop­u­la­tion in ­some are­as, ­such as the ­lake Trasimeno in Italy, is accom­pa­nied by ­enhanced ­water pol­lu­tion. In ­fact, Phragmites can ­thrive in shal­low and ­almost stag­nant ­water, ­where few oth­ers spe­cies can sur­vive, ­because its ­dense and ver­ti­cal­ly extend­ed rhi­zome mat, ­anchored to the ­shore, ­takes up nutri­ents (nitro­gen and phos­phor­us). It has ­been hypo­the­sised ­that ­this hab­it ­favours the deg­ra­da­tion of ­some chem­i­cal com­pounds in the rhi­zome and the remov­al of ­heavy met­als ­from the ­water. The capac­ity to oxy­gen­ate the rhi­zome is at the ­basis of ­these activ­ities. Thus, Phragmites has fea­tures par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant to its poten­tial use to rem­e­di­ate the con­tam­i­na­tion of wet­lands by agri­cul­ture run-off. Actually, it has ­been ­already includ­ed in con­struct­ed wet­land to ­clean civ­il and indus­tri­al waste­wa­ter ­with a ­high ­load of organ­ic pol­lu­tants. In ­this ­paper we ­will ana­lyse and inte­grate ­with new ­results the cur­rent knowl­edge on the bio­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics of ­this spe­cies. We ­will ­also ana­lyse how it inter­acts ­with the envi­ron­ment.

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