Phytoremediation and Plant-Assisted Bioremediation in Soil and Treatment Wetlands: A Review

Jaak Truua, b, *, Marika Truua, Mikk Espenberga, Hiie Nõlvaka, Jaanis Juhansonc
a aInstitute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 46 Vanemuise Street, Tartu 51014, Estonia
b bFaculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia, Alberta Street 10, Riga, LV-1010, Latvia
c cDepartment of Microbiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 75007 Uppsala, Sweden

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© 2015 Truu et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, 46 Vanemuise Street, Tartu 51014, Estonia; Tel: +372 7 737 6843; E-mail:


Phytoremediation is a technology that is based on the combined action of plants and their associated microbial communities to degrade, remove, transform, or immobilize toxic compounds located in soils, sediments, and more recently in polluted ground water and wastewater in treatment wetlands. Phytoremediation could be used to treat different types of contaminants including petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated solvents, pesticides, explosives, heavy metals and radionuclides in soil and water. The advantages of phytoremediation compared to conventional techniques are lower cost, low disruptiveness to the environment, public acceptance, and potentiality to remediate various pollutants. The use of plants in conjunction with plant associated bacteria (rhizosphere or endophytic) offers greater potential for bioremediation of organic compounds, and in some cases inorganic pollutants than using plants alone in bioremediation. The implementation of treatment wetlands for phytoremediation of wastewater or polluted water originating from various sources allows removing organic and inorganic pollutants from water in an environmentally friendly and economically feasible way.

Presently, different processes of phytoremediation in treatment wetlands are less studied compared to phytoremediation of polluted soils. Further research is needed to advance the understanding of the pollutant removal mechanisms in treatment wetlands with vegetation, and how based on this information to improve treatment wetland design and operational parameters to achieve more efficient treatment processes. This review covers basic processes of phytoremediation with special emphasis on rhizoremediation and plant-microbe interactions in plant–assisted biodegradation in soil and treatment wetlands.

Keywords: Rhizoremediation, phytoremediation, treatment wetlands.