Modelling metal accumulation using humic acid as a surrogate for plant roots

T.T. Yen Le*, Frank Swartjes, Paul Romkens, J.E. Groenenberg, Peng Wang, Stephen Lofts, A.J. Hendriks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Metal accumulation in roots was modelled with WHAM VII using humic acid (HA) as a surrogate for root surface. Metal accumulation was simulated as a function of computed metal binding to HA, with a correction term (EHA) to account for the differences in binding site density between HA and root surface. The approach was able to model metal accumulation in roots to within one order of magnitude for 95% of the data points. Total concentrations of Mn in roots of Vigna unguiculata, total concentrations of Ni, Zn, Cu and Cd in roots of Pisum sativum, as well as internalized concentrations of Cd, Ni, Pb and Zn in roots of Lolium perenne, were significantly correlated to the computed metal binding to HA. The method was less successful at modelling metal accumulation at low concentrations and in soil experiments. Measured concentrations of Cu internalized in L. perenne roots were not related to Cu binding to HA modelled and deviated from the predictions by over one order of magnitude. The results indicate that metal uptake by roots may under certain conditions be influenced by conditional physiological processes that cannot simulated by geochemical equilibrium. Processes occurring in chronic exposure of plants grown in soil to metals at low concentrations complicate the relationship between computed metal binding to HA and measured metal accumulation in roots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-69
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Affinity
  • Metal
  • Modelling
  • Root uptake
  • WHAM


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