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Plants and microrganisms in environmental monitoring and restoration

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Higher plants and cryptogams are widely employed as biomonitors of environmental quality since ‘60s; a large body of literature proves their usefulness and effectiveness in biomonitoring of environmental pollutants, with a wide range of applications and different methodological improvements of the techniques ...

Higher plants and cryptogams are widely employed as biomonitors of environmental quality since ‘60s; a large body of literature proves their usefulness and effectiveness in biomonitoring of environmental pollutants, with a wide range of applications and different methodological improvements of the techniques in the last years. Vascular plants reflect two environmental compartments, soil and air, while cryptogams represent suitable ecological indicators of atmospheric contaminants. During the last decades, the measurement of atmospheric contamination has become a complex issue due to the vast variety of emerging xenobionts and pollution sources related to human activities. A considerable number of substances, both inorganic and organic compounds, of unknown effect on ecosystems and human health, is increasingly released to the environment every day, and their monitoring is a key step to implement environmental control and management, and plan efficient environmental policies.
Plants represent a useful tool in environmental restoration, as proved by the increasing research interests focused on green chemistry, soil quality and phytoremediation. Soil pollution affects air and water quality, for example, through soil dust resuspension and water run-off. Since the soil is a quite stationary phase of the abiotic environment, its cleaning up can give beneficial impact on other environmental compartments. Soil is regarded as a non-renewable resource, since its formation takes a long time; physical-chemical methods aimed at soil restoration usually give back soil poor and not reusable in agriculture; therefore, these approaches are not considered a suitable alternative to plant-mediated methods.
Inseparable part of our biosphere are microorganisms that interact with pollutants and have a high genetic potential for biodegradation and complete mineralization of harmful organic substances. It is considered that there is no organic substance that is not subject to the action of microorganisms to some extent, from oil pollutants to halogenated compounds and a number of toxic chemicals that modern chemistry has brought us, but sometimes, for this biotransformation, special environmental conditions and specific microorganisms are required. Bioremediation represents the use of microorganisms to cleanse the polluted environment in the most natural way and thus enable the growth and development of plants.
Therefore, the issue “Plants and microrganisms in environmental monitoring and restoration” is intended as a collection of articles addressing the use of plants and microrganisms in the assessment of environmental quality and recovery, with attention to areas undergoing high anthropogenic pressure. Appropriate sub-topic subjects include: biomonitoring survey related to different land uses, detection of the baseline pollution in remote areas, intercalibration between biomonitoring and reference monitoring devices, laboratory and field experiments on soil phytoremediation, studies on pollutant uptake mechanism, and plant responses to pollution evaluated at various levels, from molecular, to ultrastructure, up to whole organism.


Keywords: Air quality, Environmental pollution, Phytoremediation, Plant abiotic stress, Plant biomonitoring


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