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Field Note: Hydraulic Containment of A Btex Plume Using Poplar Trees

In 1999, 275 poplar trees were planted on a field site near a car factory in order to install a bioscreen. The aim was to combine the biodegradation activities of poplar and its associated rhizosphere and endophytic microorganisms for containing a BTEX contaminated groundwater plume. This BTEX plume occurred as the result of leaking solvents and fuel storage tanks. Monitoring, conducted over a 6-year period (1999-2005) after the planting of the trees suggested that the poplar trees and their associated microorganisms had, once the tree roots reached the contaminated groundwater zone, an active role in the remediation of the BTEX plume, resulting in full containment of the contamination. Analysis of the microbial communities associated with poplar demonstrated that, once the poplar roots got in contact with the BTEX contaminated groundwater, enrichment occurred of both rhizosphere and endophytic bacteria that were able to degrade toluene. Interestingly, once the BTEX plume was remediated, the numbers of toluene degrading rhizosphere and endophytic bacteria decreased below the detection limit, indicating that their population resulted from selective enrichment by the presence of the contaminants


Barac, T., Weyens, N., Oeyen, L., Taghavi, S., van der Lelie, D., Dubin, D., ... Vangronsveld, J. (2009). Field Note: Hydraulic Containment of A Btex Plume Using Poplar Trees. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 11(5), 416-424.