At contaminated groundwater sites, poplar trees can be used to affect groundwater levels, flow directions, and ultimately total groundwater and contaminant flux to areas downgradient of the trees. The magnitude of the hydrologic changes can be monitored using fundamental concepts of groundwater hydrology, in addition to plant physiology-based approaches, and can be viewed as being almost independent of the contaminant released. The affect of poplar trees on the fate of groundwater contaminants, however, is contaminant dependent. Some petroleum hydrocarbons or chlorinated solvents may be mineralized or transformed to innocuous compounds by rhizospheric bacteria associated with the tree roots, mineralized or transformed by plant tissues in the transpiration stream or leaves after uptake, or passively volatilized and rapidly dispersed or oxidized in the atmosphere. These processes also can be monitored using a combination of physiological- or geochemical-based field or laboratory approaches. When combined, such hydrologic and contaminant monitoring approaches can result in a more accurate assessment of the use of poplar trees to meet regulatory goals at contaminated groundwater sites, verify that these goals continue to be met in the future, and ultimately lead to a consensus on how the performance of plant-based remedial strategies (phytoremediation) is to be assessed.
Additional publication details
Monitoring the effect of poplar trees on petroleum-hydrocarbon and chlorinated-solvent contaminated ground water