Metal-eating plants can help restore damaged mining sites

November 6th, 2016 by

DAVAO CITY—Environmentalists are agog with the disclosure about the presence of metal-eating plants endemic in the country, as a scientist revealed they could be harnessed to restore forests and watersheds damaged by mining operations.

The environmentalist organization, Interface Development Interventions (Idis), announced the disclosure, of scientist Dr. Edwino Fernando, that there 20 plant species in the country with known metal-eating characteristics.

The Idis said Fernando and his research team discovered in 2011 the Rinorea niccolifera, a nickel-eating shrub, in Zambales. The group said the recently discovered species was among the 20 species of metallophytes.

“These species are called metallophytes. They can tolerate high levels of heavy metals, such as lead. Some of these will even require the presence of heavy metals in the soil in order to survive,” Fernando told the recent rainforestation capacity training organized by the Rain Forestation Restoration Initiative (RFRI) network at the Ateneo de Davao University.

Idis said the finding was significant “because the plant was able to accumulate and tolerate metal content at levels 100 times greater than the average ordinary plant growing in the same environment.”

In the Ateneo training, Fernando said “the use of this species can be an alternative strategy to rehabilitate watersheds, which have been damaged by mining.”

“Given that there are so many mining companies right now, metallophyte plants can be used to restore forests in mining areas,” he said.

IDIS executive director Ann Fuertes said the properties of native metallophyte plants “are very valuable because it can increase the impact of current soil-remediation techniques.”

“This is very important, especially in watersheds with large-scale and small-scale mining activities. This will shorten the rehabilitation period, enabling the renewal of the ecosystem more quickly. And because this approach is natural and environment-friendly, it would mean lesser costs for rehabilitation efforts,” she said.

“Now that the DENR [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] has been closing critical areas due to the damage caused by mining operations, this can be mainstreamed as a major approach toward renewing our forest resources in the watersheds,” Fuertes said.

The RFRI network will convene a conference next year “to discuss the potential of this species for propagation in the government’s forest rehabilitation programs.” (Manuel Cayon, Business Mirror)