Are Grasses Really Useful for the Phytoremediation of Potentially Toxic Trace Elements? A Review

Flávio Henrique Silveira Rabêlo*, Jaco Vangronsveld, Alan J.M. Baker, Antony van der Ent, Luís Reynaldo Ferracciú Alleoni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The pollution of soil, water, and air by potentially toxic trace elements poses risks to environmental and human health. For this reason, many chemical, physical, and biological processes of remediation have been developed to reduce the (available) trace element concentrations in the environment. Among those technologies, phytoremediation is an environmentally friendly in situ and cost-effective approach to remediate sites with low-to-moderate pollution with trace elements. However, not all species have the potential to be used for phytoremediation of trace element-polluted sites due to their morpho-physiological characteristics and low tolerance to toxicity induced by the trace elements. Grasses are prospective candidates due to their high biomass yields, fast growth, adaptations to infertile soils, and successive shoot regrowth after harvest. A large number of studies evaluating the processes related to the uptake, transport, accumulation, and toxicity of trace elements in grasses assessed for phytoremediation have been conducted. The aim of this review is (i) to synthesize the available information on the mechanisms involved in uptake, transport, accumulation, toxicity, and tolerance to trace elements in grasses; (ii) to identify suitable grasses for trace element phytoextraction, phytostabilization, and phytofiltration; (iii) to describe the main strategies used to improve trace element phytoremediation efficiency by grasses; and (iv) to point out the advantages, disadvantages, and perspectives for the use of grasses for phytoremediation of trace element-polluted soils.

Original languageEnglish
Article number778275
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • heavy metals
  • phytoextraction
  • phytofiltration
  • phytostabilization
  • Poaceae
  • tolerance mechanisms
  • toxicity
  • trace elements uptake


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