Research Topic

Searching for Solutions to Soil Pollution: Underlying Soil-Contaminant Interactions and Development of Innovative Land Remediation and Reclamation Techniques

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About this Research Topic

In memory of Petra Susan Kidd, brilliant scientist, extraordinary woman and great friend

Soils are complex and dynamic systems that perform essential functions for the sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems and the support of life. They participate in a wide variety of ecosystem functions/services, ...

In memory of Petra Susan Kidd, brilliant scientist, extraordinary woman and great friend

Soils are complex and dynamic systems that perform essential functions for the sustainability of terrestrial ecosystems and the support of life. They participate in a wide variety of ecosystem functions/services, including those related to the production of biomass, the regulation of carbon and nutrient cycles, and the regulation of water resources and air quality, due to their filtering and buffering capacity.

Over the last decades, increasing industrialization, urbanization, intensive agriculture, and mining exploitation activities have resulted in the release of significant amounts of contaminants into soils, significantly affecting soil functionality and ecosystem services. A contaminated soil may serve as a source of pollution affecting water and air quality, vegetation and food quality, and human health. There are many potential soil contaminants, including heavy metals or trace elements (e.g., lead, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, zinc, etc.), petroleum hydrocarbons and persistent organic pollutants (e.g., pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, furans and dioxins. In addition, in recent years, emerging contaminants (e.g., personal care products and pharmaceutical products, such as hormonal compounds and antibiotics, nanoparticles), and biological contaminants (viral and bacterial pathogens) have also raised concern.

Although many research efforts have been, and are being, devoted to the recovery of soil functionality through the application of a variety of soil reclamation and remediation procedures, there is still much need for additional efforts in this important area. Soils are highly complex systems, and their remediation or reclamation has to be adapted to the specific land properties and use, the environmental conditions and the (mix of) pollutants present, a list that is continuously growing along with the “progress” of society. There is an urgent need to understand the interaction of pollutants with soil components, and their influence on microbial activity and biodiversity, which play an essential role in the recovery of degraded lands. Also, there is an urgent need to develop innovative, less-destructive land remediation and reclamation procedures, avoiding traditional methods that may cause loss of soil functionality (e.g., excavation, thermal, or chemical treatments often negatively affect soil biodiversity and structure). Mankind cannot afford the loss of a single square meter of soil surface, since it is our basic life support, and a fundamental need considering the exponential growth of human population.

In this general context, this Research Topic aims to bring together articles describing innovative advances in soil pollution research, focusing, but not limited to:
• Innovative soil reclamation procedures and/or remediation techniques such as:
- Biologically based technologies (e.g., phyto- or bioremediation);
- Nanoremediation;
- Organic matter additions and organic based amendments (e.g., non-hazardous residues or biochar);
- Emerging sorbents (e.g., oxides of different types or nanoparticles).
• Best-performing and emerging parameters and indicators for monitoring soil quality during and after application of remediation techniques.
• Risk assessment (health hazards to humans, other living organisms and ecosystems) and contaminated land management based on soil use and/or contaminant bioavailability:
- Soils contaminated with mainly one contaminant;
- Soils contaminated with complex mixtures of contaminants;
- Development of a bioavailability/toxicology approaches to be included in soil regulations.
• Emerging pollutants and the risks derived from reusing treated wastewater, sewage sludge or livestock residues improperly treated, as a main source of biological pollutants or antibiotic residues, related to the presence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in soils.
• Modelling the impacts of soil pollution on food, water and air quality, public health, and ecosystem services.
• Presence and effects of co-contaminants (complex mixtures of pollutants, commonly present in brownfields, but also in other contaminated sites; effects on microbial activity and diversity).
• Field case-studies of successful management and remediation of polluted soils.

Manuscripts submitted to this Research Topic can have one of a number of formats: original research articles, reviews, mini-reviews on specific topics, reviews of recent books, or short opinion pieces.


Keywords: soil pollution, reclamation, gentle remediation, organic pollutants, heavy metals, emerging pollutants


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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