Plants and fungi clean up soil in Los Angeles

Plants and fungi clean up soil in Los Angeles

Plants and fungi clean up soil in Los Angeles

Scientists from the University of California Riverside have grown plants and fungi that help naturally remove heavy metals and petrochemicals that pollute soil on land that was once an automobile manufacturing site in Los Angeles.

A volunteer in a study prepared on these plants, Bakri Hampel, stated that the Californian buckwheat that was planted on the site had absorbed lead polluting the soil since it was planted, adding that this bush is full of white and pink flowers, in terms of cleaning the soil.

He continued, “It is a miracle of life, as plants really know how to extract lead from the soil, and they have already done so many times over millions of years.”

Researcher Danielle Stephenson, who is leading this study, stated that the traditional method of cleaning up sites is to excavate the contaminated soil and dump it elsewhere, a technique that may cost millions of dollars and has no benefit other than moving the problem to another place.

She added that “biological treatment” is a more affordable alternative than traditional methods, noting that the study is being conducted in 3 former industrial sites in Los Angeles, and that the cost of removing pollutants with plants and fungi costs only two hundred thousand dollars.

The researcher specialized in mycology confirmed that the first results of the project are promising, as petrochemicals decreased by 50% in 3 months, and in 6 months they approached this percentage for some minerals.

She added that among the fungi included in the study is the white oyster mushroom, which feeds on dead trees and hydrocarbons such as diesel, stressing that there are many local plants from California that act as “vacuum cleaners” for heavy metals that can be reused, and even survive in contaminated soil that receives help from fungi. The root system, a natural ally of the forest, provides plants with water and nutrients.

The scientist stresses that “biological treatment” can be applied in many areas, from cleaning wastewater to treating soil contaminated with toxic ash from forest fires, a phenomenon that is repeated in California.

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