Phytomanagement of Pb/Zn/Cu Tailings using Biosolids-Biochar or -Humus Combinations: Enhancement of Bioenergy Crop Production, Substrate Functionality, and Ecosystem Services


The extreme characteristics of mine tailings generally prohibit microbial processes and natural plant growth. Consequently, vast and numerous tailings sites remain barren for decades and highly susceptible to windblown dust and water erosion. Amendment-assisted phytostabilization is a cost-effective and ecologically productive approach to mitigate the potential transport of residual metals. Due to the contrasting and complementary characteristics of biosolids (BS) and biochar (BC), co-application might be more efficient than individually applied. Studies considering BS and BC co-application for multi-metal tailings revegetation are scarce. As tailings revegetation is a multidimensional issue, clearly notable demand exists for a study that provides a comprehensive understanding on the co-application impact on interrelated properties of physicochemical, biological, mineral nitrogen availability, metal immobilization, water-soil interactions, and impacts on plant cultivation and biomass production. This 8-month greenhouse study aimed at investigating the efficacy of co-application strategies targeting BS and carbon-rich amendments (BC or humic substances (HS)) to phytomanage a slightly alkaline Pb/Zn/Cu tailings with bioenergy crops (poplar, willow, and miscanthus). A complementary assessment linking revegetation effectiveness to ecosystem services (ES) provision was also included. Owing to their rich nutrient and organic matter contents, BS had the most pronounced influence on most of the measured properties including physicochemical, enzyme activities, NH4+-N and NO3−-N availability, immobilization of Zn, Cu, and Cd, and biomass production. Co-applying with BC exhibited efficient nutrient release and was more effective than BS alone in reducing metal bioavailability and uptake particularly Pb. Poplar and willow exhibited more superior phytostabilization efficiency compared to miscanthus which caused acidification-induced metal mobilization, yet BC and BS co-application was effective in ameliorating this effect. Enhancement of ES and substrate quality index mirrored the positive effect of amendment co-application and plant cultivation. Co-applying HS with BS resulted in improved nutrient cycling while BC enhanced water purification and contamination control services.


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Biomass Crops; Degraded Lands; Heavy Metals; Organic Amendments; Phytoremediation; Soil Quality

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1879-1026; 0048-9697

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


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© 2022 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

25 Aug 2022

PubMed ID