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Revista Chilena de Historia Natural 81 (4): 489-499, 2008
Copper distribution in leaves and roots of plants growing on a copper mine-tailing storage facility in northern Chile
In a copper mine-tailing afforested we characterized the physicochemical properties of the substrate at vegetated and non-vegetated patches. We studied the accumulation of copper in roots and leaves of the species present at the site, to evaluate their phytoextraction and/or phytostabilization potential. The nonvegetated mine-tailing substrate showed a high content of metals, mainly copper (> 2.5 g kg<sup>-1</sup>), a pH 7.4, high content of salts and 5.0 % organic matter. Vegetated patches at the tailing showed similar characteristics of pH, salts and organic matter content, and showed a total copper concentration lower than the content found at the non-vegetated patches. Nine plant species present at the site were screened for copper accumulation and distribution in roots and leaves, and potential for  copper phytoextraction or phytostabilization was suggested. The native species Schinus polygamus and Atriplex deserticola, accumulated over 1.2 g kg<sup>-1</sup> copper in their leaves, showing that they are pseudometallophytes for the metal. Five of the nine plant species studied were considered suitable for phytoextraction procedures and four were apt for phytostabilization of copper polluted sites. By making a screening of species growing on a copper polluted site, we were able to select plants adapted to semi-arid environmental conditions and suitable for mine-tailings remediation purposes.
Key words:
copper, phytoextraction,  phytostabilisation, remediation, native plants

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