Phytoremediation of the metalloid selenium in soil and water

Zhilin Wu, Gary S. Bañuelos, Xuebin Yin, Zhiqing Lin, Norman Terry, Ying Liu, Linxi Yuan*, Miao Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Toxic heavy metal selenium (Se), is constantly released into the environment. There is an urgent need to develop low-cost, effective, and sustainable methods for Se removal. Plant-based approaches, such as phytoremediation, are relatively inexpensive since they are performed in situ and are solar-driven. In this review, we discuss specific advances in plant-based approaches for the remediation of Se-contaminated water and soil. Dilute concentrations of Se contaminants can be removed from large volumes of wastewater by constructed wetlands. We discuss the potential of constructed wetlands for use in remediating Se in agricultural drainage water and industrial effluent, as well as concerns over their potential ecotoxicity. In upland ecosystems, plants may be used to accumulate Se in their harvestable biomass (phytoextraction). Plants can also convert and release Se in a volatile form (phytovolatilization). We discuss how genetic engineering has been used to develop plants with enhanced efficiencies for phytoextraction and phytovolatilization. For example, Se-hyperaccumulating plants and microbes with unique abilities to tolerate, accumulate, and detoxify Se represent an important reservoir of unique genes that could be transferred to fast-growing plant species for enhanced Se of phytoremediation. There is also a need to develop new strategies to improve the acceptability of using genetically engineered plants for Se of phytoremediation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhytoremediation
Subtitle of host publicationManagement of Environmental Contaminants, Volume 2
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9783319109695
ISBN (Print)9783319109688
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Constructed wetlands
  • Hyperaccumulators
  • Phytoremediation
  • Phytovolatilization
  • Selenium

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