Metal contamination of landscapes as a result of mining and other industrial activities is a pervasive problem worldwide. Metal contaminated soils often lack effective vegetation cover and are prone to contaminant leaching and dispersion through erosion, leading to contamination of the environment. Metal-binding hydrogel particle amendments could ameliorate mine wastes prior to planting and enhance seedling emergence. In this study, micron-size thiol functional cross-linked acrylamide polymer hydrogel particles (X3) were synthesised and tested in laboratory-scale experiments on phytotoxic mine wastes to determine their capacity to: (i) increase substrate water holding capacity (WHC); (ii) reduce metal availability to plants to below the phytotoxicity threshold; and (iii) enhance germination characteristics and early radicle development of two Australian metallophyte grasses under limiting and non-limiting water conditions. Addition of X3 to mine wastes significantly increased their WHC and lowered toxic soluble metal concentrations in mine waste leachates. Germination percentages and radicle elongation of both grasses in wastes were significantly increased. Highest germination percentages and greater radicle development recorded in X3 amended wastes under water limited conditions suggests that X3 was able to ameliorate metal toxicity to radicles, and provide moisture, which improved the imbibition and consequent germination of the seeds.
Guteress, J., Rossato, L., Pudmenzky, A., Doley, D., Whittaker, M. R., & Schmidt, S. (2013). Micron-size metal-binding hydrogel particles improve germination and radicle elongation of Australian metallophyte grasses in mine waste rock and tailings. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 248-249(1), 442 - 450. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhazmat.2013.01.049