Phytoremediation is a collective term for a number of processes that utilize bacteria, fungi, green plants to stabilize or remediate contaminated sites. Remediation processes by these organisms include stabilization, filtration, extraction, sequestration, and/or detoxification of contaminants. Hardwood species such as willow and poplar are used to create an environment that promotes evaporation to reduce percolation into contaminated soils. In addition, improved soil environment is more conducive to degradational processes.
We have been working primarily with development of short rotation woody crops on degraded lands such as brownfield sites in New York. We have had a several-year long project with particular emphasis on phytohydraulic applications to prevent pollutant migration to Onondaga Lake near Syracuse, NY. We also collaborate with wetland restoration ecologists in assessing the utilization of waste sites to restore salt marshes in central New York.
We are increasingly engaged in evaluating performance of green infrastructure systems such as rain gardens, green roofs and bioretention basins. Collaborative arrangements with restoration ecologists and landscape architects are investigating diverse projects such as design of green roof vegetated systems that are based on native plants. We have a functioning rain garden on campus that is instrumented with level and temperature sensors to compute the water balance and provide a resource for examining water quality improvements.
Students in this study area are supported through coursework in Phytotechnology (listed as ERE 796); field studies involving lysimeters, tensiometers, climate monitoring, eddy covariance; and model application.