From green to clean: a promising and sustainable approach towards environmental remediation and human health for the 21st century
Phytotechnologies are ecotechnologies relating to the use of vegetation, to resolve environmental problems in a watershed management, by prevention of landscape degradation, remediation and restoration of degraded ecosystems, kontrol of environmental processes, and monitoring and assessment of environmental quality. They are beginning to offer efficient tools and environmentally friendly solutions for the cleanup of contaminated sites and water, the improvement of food chain safety, and the development of renewable bioenergy, contributing to a sustainable use of water and land. In the framework of COST Action 859, a European-wide integration and expansion of research and development efforts have been established to use phytotechnologies as instruments for management and removal of environmental pollutants, as well as for improving food quality and safety. This network aims to contribute to the implementation, assessment and integration of appropriate and efficient phytotreatments for sustainable land use management, ecosystem restoration and mitigation strategies applicable to different environmental compartments. However, each of these goals requires a sound understanding of how plants can specifically accumulate or exclude essential elements, toxic metals, and organic pollutants. This includes knowledge on the bioavailability of metals and xenobiotics in the rhizosphere, their uptake by roots, translocation to and detoxification/storage in the above-ground parts of the plant, at physiological, biochemical and molecular levels. The purpose of the present position paper, based on recent publications by members of COST Action 859, is to sum up major outlines, outcomes and outlook from the network and to highlight some critical points where significant progress has been made in Europe over the last few years to overcome bottlenecks in the plant removal and detoxification of pollutants. Four topics are developed here, pointing out the specific items addressed by the different Working Groups: environmental pollution and potential of phytoremediation; improving nutritional quality and safety of food crops; plant uptake/exclusion and translocation of nutrients and contaminants; exploiting “omics” approaches in phytotechnologies.