Rooted in Research

Pollution Solutions: Maximizing the Cleaning Power of Trees

Cover image for Research ReviewIt is hard to imagine the vast expanse of the Great Lakes being anything but pristine, yet trouble roils just beneath the surface. The Great Lakes contain roughly 90 percent of the surface freshwater supply in the United States - and 20 percent of the world's freshwater supply. In recent years, increases in the use of electronics, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products has led to an increase in the pollutants that are pumped into the environment every day. Left unchecked, these pollutants can dramatically alter the future of the Great Lakes. Northern Research Station scientists and partners are leading research on phytotechnologies - technologies that use trees to solve environmental problems. The work of this team to establish standardized, customizable approaches is setting a new standard for tailoring the phytoremediation process to the needs of communities here in the Great Lakes, and anywhere in the world.

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For more information contact

Andrea Brandon
Science Delivery Specialist
USDA Forest Service - Northern Research Station

Key Management Considerations

  • The prioritization method developed by the team uses the most current pollutant toxicity information available to help site managers make important decisions about which pollutants to clean up.
  • Poplar and willow trees have a longstanding history of successfully removing pollutants from soil and waterways. Trees chosen through a process called phyto-recurrent selection can help to optimize their effectiveness.
  • Measuring how phytoremediation unfolds throughout the life cycle of the tree could help site managers make key tree selection and management decisions.
  • Leading-edge planting methods developed by researchers could enhance the success of phytoremediation systems.

Last modified: 6/14/2022