Demonstration of improved soil biodiversity, functionality and ecosystem services in contaminated and degraded land through phyto-management within the Interreg South West Europe region (SUDOE)

  • Leader: Carlos Garbisu
  • Implementation: 2016-2018

Description: Soil contamination is a widespread problem in the Sudoe region (with hundreds to thousands of contaminated sites) and other regions within/outside Europe. The excess of chemical compounds alters soil quality and functions, and can affect water quality, biodiversity, food safety and human health. Trace elements (TEs) or metal(loid)s are among the most frequent contaminants and one of the eight main threats to soils. “Soft” alternatives have been developed for soil remediation (phytomanagement), which produce non-food crops in combination with the in situ stabilisation of the contaminant (inactivation) and techniques based on the use of plants (phytoremediation). In sites contaminated with TEs, the economic optimum is to reduce the labile fraction by means of 1) its absorption by the plant and accumulation in its harvestable parts (phytoextraction), or 2) inactivation in situ using TE-excluding plants and soil amendments (assisted phytostabilisation). In addition, rhizospheric micro-organisms and exoenzymes in roots degrade organic contaminants. Phytomanagement alternatives are less invasive and more cost-effective than civil engineering techniques and can increase microbial diversity, carbon sequestration, and the quality and functionality of soil. However, the lack of field trials to show an improvement in these essential ecosystem services leads to the under-utilisation of these plant management alternatives in the European contaminated land sector. The aim of PhytoSUDOE is to demonstrate the environmental, economic and social benefit generated during and after phytomanagement, and to encourage managers and owners of contaminated land to make widespread use of these techniques as an effective risk management strategy within the Sudoe and other European regions. This can only be achieved by establishing a transnational network of contaminated sites (located in areas of ecological interest, some protected, with the potential to provide ecosystem services) under phytomanagement throughout the Sudoe region.


1.- Characterisation and risk assessment of contaminated sites and implementation of appropriate phytomanagement options.

2.- Exploratory prospecting of the “engineering” of functional diversity to improve the efficiency of phytomanagement.

3.- Characterisation and evaluation of biodiversity in relation to the different phytomanagement options.

4.- Recovery of ecological functions at phytomanaged sites and provision of key ecosystem services.