Micro- and macro-organisms are key components of sustainable soil-plant systems; and are involved in plant growth stimulation and accumulation of heavy metals in the plant, with great contribution to phytoremediation of heavy metal-contaminated soils. However, the combined effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) and earthworms on plant growth and metal uptake is not yet clear. The main objective of this study was to examine the combined influences of these soil organisms on the growth and metal uptake by a native plant species (Stachys inflata), and subsequently on potential phytoremediation in a soil highly polluted with Pb/Zn mining activities. Metal tolerant AMF, PGPR and earthworms were used either alone or in combination in a factorial pot experiment under greenhouse conditions for 4 months. Inoculation of AMF, PGPR and earthworm led to an increase of soil Pb/Zn availability with the greatest Zn availability (about 2 times) with triple inoculation of all the organisms and the highest Pb availability (about 3 times) with co-inoculation of PGPR and earthworms. Triple inoculation of soil organisms increased the total plant biomass 3 times, total Pb uptake 6 times and total Zn uptake 5 times as compared with the uninoculated plants. The growth-stimulating effect of combined soil organisms was much greater than that of individual or dually-inoculated organisms. These results showed that it is possible to use the combination of metal-tolerant soil organisms as a potential bioaugmentation tool to accelerate metal phytoremediation rate in calcareous soils polluted by Pb/Zn mining activity under arid conditions. This could occur as a consequence of the synergistic effects of AMF, PGPR and earthworms on metal availability in the soil, S. inflata growth, metal tolerance and uptake. However, it would practically require more than hundreds of cropping cycles (360 for Pb and 250 for Zn) to achieve metal maximum permissible limits under the conditions of this pot experiment.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2019
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