Completed projects

Assessing plant potential for biological monitoring of polluted waters and sediments

Description : Metal contamination in surface water remains of concern in many industrialized countries, despite considerable efforts and investments in wastewater treatment and in prevention of emissions. There is therefore great interest in finding efficient environmental monitoring methods. Analytical testing of chemical pollutants is time-consuming and expensive. Furthermore, measuring concentra -
tions of pollutants in water and sediments alone does not provide information on the potential impact of pollution on resident organisms. There is, thus, an ever increasing interest in using indirect monitoring methods such as analysis of organisms that are bioaccumulators. Hitherto, research on the transport of metals has essentially been carried out on terrestrial plants. It is generally assumed that other organisms transport metals by the same mechanisms. Nevertheless, comparison, for example with algae or moss, reveals the existence of different uptake mechanisms. Although the aquatic ecosystems are a major vehicle for heavy metal contamination, little information is available about metals fate on aquatic plants. In spite of the significant morphological differences, to our knowledge nobody has tried to elucidate if aquatic plants uptake and tolerance mechanisms are indeed similar to terrestrial plants. Nowadays, a lack of understanding of the basic physiological, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms involved in heavy metal accumulation in aquatic plants prevents to correctly evaluate their influence on metal fluxes in aquatic environment. An understanding of these processes is fundamental not only to understanding the fate of chemicals once they have entered the aquatic systems but also to the adequate managing of aquatic environment. The proposed program will contribute to improve our understanding of bioaccumulation and toxic effects of metals in aquatic plants. In addition, these approaches should provide sound knowledge for future use of aquatic plants for biological monitoring of aquatic environment.

Collaborations : Prof. Pierre Goloubinoff (Unil), Prof. Enrico Martinoia (UniZh), Prof. Reto Strasser (UniGe), Dr Jenny Renaut (Luxembourg), Dr Didier Schaefer (UniNe).

Supervisor and colleagues directly involved : Dr Claudia Cosio