Metal accumulation by Juncus maritimus and the role of this plant on the physical and chemical composition of sediments, from the Douro river estuary (NW Portugal), were investigated. The contents of Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn were determined (by atomic absorption spectrophotometry) in sediments, rhizosediments (those among plant roots and rhizomes), and different plant tissues (roots, rhizomes, leaves, and stems). Metal fractionation in sediments through sequential extraction was carried out and used for interpretation of sediment/J. maritimus interactions. Two estuarine sites with different characteristics were studied: site I displayed sandy sediment with lower organic matter and metals more weakly bound to it than site II sediment, which was muddy. At both sites, higher metal contents were observed in rhizosediments than in the surrounding sediment, but metals were more weakly bound to rhizosediment. Therefore, J. maritimus markedly influenced the sediments among its roots and rhizomes, changing metal distribution and speciation. Different patterns of both metal uptake and metal distribution among J. maritimus tissues were observed at the two sites. Plant bioaccumulation was only observed for Cd, Cu, and Zn, being similar for Cd atthe two sites and significantly higher for Cu and Zn (9 and 4 times higher, respectively) at site I. In conclusion, J. maritimus was shown to have potential for phytoextraction (or phytostabilization) of Cd, Cu, and Zn in estuarine environment. However, an eventual application of J. maritimus for this purpose will require a periodic removal of the plants together with their own rhizosediment.
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