The University of Arizona
SWES dept logo Environmental Biogeochemistry Group Sabino Fall color
Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science

Research Project:
Phytostabilization of Mine Tailings in the Southwestern US: Plant-Soil-Microbe Interactions and Metal Speciation Dynamics

Mine tailings are among the most important sources of environmental metal contamination and they require novel remediation approaches. Since the form of a metal controls its bioavailability, experiments that probe changes in metal speciation in response to remediation schemes are needed to provide essential validation. In arid regions, mine tailings and associated contaminants are prone to wind-borne dispersion and water erosion. These problems are extensive and can persist for decades because impacted sites lack normal soil stabilization (e.g. establishment of a plant cover and subsurface organic matter accumulation).

Phytostabilization is the process of vegetating mine tailings with sufficient coverage to reduce wind and water erosion. It seeks to accumulate metals in the root zone rather than to extract them into above-ground biomass. To understanding how plant root-microbe associations affect metal speciation in mine tailings we are coupling macroscopic wet chemical methods with both bulk and spatially-resolved (EXAFS, FTIR, XRD) spectroscopic techniques.
Group Contacts:
Rob Root and Jon Chorover  

Dr. Raina Maier (University of Arizona)
Funding Source:
National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIH) as part of the University of Arizona Superfund Program 
Superfund logo

Selected Project References (click here for full publication list):


Updated September 2, 2016

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