Australian Journal of Botany Australian Journal of Botany Society
Southern hemisphere botanical ecosystems
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Metal uptake and organic acid exudation of native Acacia species in mine tailings

Sebla Kabas A , Felipe Saavedra-Mella A , Trang Huynh A , Peter M. Kopittke B , Steve Carter C and Longbin Huang A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, The University of Queensland, Qld 4072, Australia.

B School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, Qld 4072, Australia.

C Forensic and Scientific Services Health Support Queensland Department of Health, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Qld 4108, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: l.huang@uq.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 65(4) 357-367 https://doi.org/10.1071/BT16189
Submitted: 16 December 2016  Accepted: 10 May 2017   Published: 22 June 2017

Abstract

Phytostabilisation with native plant species has been advocated as a cost-effective approach to rehabilitate mine tailings containing phytotoxic metal-bearing minerals. For this purpose, five Acacia species (natural colonisers) native to north-west Queensland region of Australia were investigated for metal uptake and root exudation characteristics in response to growth for 3 weeks in three different mine tailings (Cu and Cu-Pb-Zn) differing in their degree of weathering. Root tissues of the plant species grown in the three types of tailings accumulated up to 0.9 mg Cd kg–1, 10 mg Co kg–1, 177 mg Cu kg–1, 38 mg Pb kg–1 and 4800 mg Zn kg–1 (DW basis) – being suitable for phytostabilisation purposes. However, elevated levels of root exudates in rhizosphere tailings enhanced the bioavailability of metals, leading to the accumulation of high levels of some metals in Acacia shoots (e.g. shoot concentrations of 140 mg Zn kg–1 in Acacia acradenia F.Muell. and 230 mg Zn kg–1 in Acacia hilliana Maiden). Positive correlations (P < 0.05) between citric acid levels and metal root uptakes suggested that citric acid production in these plant species may be the main driver for metal mobilisation. The results suggest that the native acacia species have the potential to mobilise metals (albeit in mineral forms) in the tailings, when used for phytostabilisation.

Additional keywords: native plants, metal bioavailability, phytostabilisation, rhizosphere, root exudates, tailings pore water.


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