Doctoral Dissertations

Keywords and Phrases

Contaminant Fate; Root Uptake


"Plants interact directly with their surroundings, extracting nutrients and water from the subsurface to support growth and development of the plant. Through the roots, plants also exude and uptake numerous chemicals. Many of the pathways can also be used by environmental contaminants to be translocated to above ground plant tissues. Such uptake of contaminants has proven useful in remediation and phytoscreening - the use of plants to delineate contaminant plumes. Sampling of trees at contaminated field sites has been used to identify areas of groundwater contaminated with a variety of chlorinated solvents. The use of plants as contaminant biosensors requires understanding of their interactions with the environment. Meteorological variables result in fluctuating water and contaminant fluxes through plants, manifested by seasonal trends in contaminant concentrations in tree trunks. While the application of phytoscreening for chlorinated solvents has been successful, numerous other organic contaminants may be candidates. Chemical properties such as hydrophobicity, molecular weight, and hydrogen bonding were shown to explain uptake of organic compounds by plants. Beyond organic compounds, potential exists for phytoscreening of inorganics. One example is perchlorate, a soluble oxyanion readily available to plant roots. A greenhouse study showed proportional response of tree sap perchlorate concentrations to dosing solution perchlorate. At a field site, perchlorate in tree cores generally reflected areas of groundwater perchlorate contamination. Collectively, phytoscreening is a low-impact, sustainable approach to plume delineation viable for a wide range of environmental contaminants"--Abstract, page iv.


Burken, Joel G. (Joel Gerard)

Committee Member(s)

Ma, Yinfa
Morrison, Glenn
Samaranayake, V. A.
Wang, Jianmin


Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Degree Name

Ph. D. in Civil Engineering


National Science Foundation (U.S.)


Missouri University of Science and Technology

Publication Date

Summer 2014

Journal article titles appearing in thesis/dissertation

  • Phytoscreening with SPME: analysis of variability
  • Chlorinated solvents in trees: seasonal variations in concentrations
  • Plant translocation of organic compounds: molecular & physicochemical predictors
  • Phytoscreening for perchlorate: rapid analysis of tree sap


ix, 149 pages

Note about bibliography

Includes bibliographical references.


© 2014 Matthew Alan Limmer, All rights reserved.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

File Type




Subject Headings

Pollutants -- Analysis
Environmental toxicology

Thesis Number

T 10534

Electronic OCLC #