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1 Introduction

Rapid industrialization coupled with increased urbanization and changing agricultural practices have resulted in the non-judicious production and use of chemical compounds. Consequently, the environment has become heavily contaminated with pollutants that are toxic to both the environment and human health. Many sites are currently co-contaminated with organic pollutants and heavy metals. Therefore, the removal of contaminants has become a crucial problem that requires a variety of approaches to reach suitable solutions.

Phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to remove pollutants or to render them harmless through physical, chemical and biological processes (Cunningham and Ow 1996; Pilon-Smits 2005), is a low-cost and ecologically accepted technology for in situ decontamination of soil and water. During phytoremediation the soil biological properties and physical structure are maintained and soil fertility and biodiversity can be improved. Moreover, well-planted phytoremediation site prevent landscape destruction while garnering strong public support due to the aestetic appearance of the plants. As shown in Fig. 14.1, phytoremediation includes different processes, among which rhizoremediation and phytoextraction represent more challenging techniques for remediating soil that has been contaminated with organic and inorganic pollutants. Additionally, microbe-assisted phytoremediation has recently been employed by exploiting the symbiotic plant-microbe relationship in a rhizosphere (Chaudhry et al. 2005; Gerhardt et al. 2006). Plant roots provide a large surface area for a large population of bacteria and transport the colonizing bacteria to a depth of 10-15 m in the soil. During rhizoremediation, the root system distributes microorganisms through the soil and penetrates otherwise-impermeable soil layers while drawing soluble forms of the pollutants in the soil water phase towards the plant and the microorganisms. Moreover, the plant roots help increase the availability of the pollutant by breaking apart and aerating soil particles as well as by pumping water to the root-colonizing bacteria which helps improve their survival.

Removal of aerial contaminants

Accumulation in shoots and leaves (Sequestration, compartmentation)

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Removal of aerial contaminants

Accumulation in shoots and leaves (Sequestration, compartmentation)

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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