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Ecosystem services of poplar at long‐term phytoremediation sites in the Midwest and Southeast, United States


William L. Headlee
Gayathri Gopalakrishnan
Edmund O. Bauer
Richard B. Hall
Dennis W. Hazel
Jud G. Isebrands
Louis A. Licht
M. Cristina Negri
Elizabeth Guthrie Nichols
Donald L. Rockwood



Publication type:

Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Primary Station(s):

Northern Research Station


Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment


Short rotation woody crops (SRWCs) including Populus species and their hybrids (i.e., poplars) are ideal for incorporating biomass production with phytotechnologies such as phytoremediation. To integrate these applications, 15 poplar plantings from nine long-term phytoremediation installations were sampled from 2012 to 2013 in the Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin) and Southeast (Alabama, Florida, North Carolina) United States. In this review, we report summary results of this sampling and how performance at each site compared with comparable phytoremediation systems in the literature. We review significant genotypic differences from each planting within the context of provisioning (i.e., biomass production) and regulating (i.e., carbon sequestration) ecosystem services and how they relate to the need for a cleaner environment during times of accelerated ecological degradation. Overall, the contaminated poplar sites provided these ecosystem services comparable to noncontaminated poplar sites used for bioenergy and biofuels feedstock production. For example, phytoremediation trees at the Midwestern sites had biomass values ranging from 4.4 to 15.5 Mg ha−1 y−1, which was ~20% less relative to bioenergy trees (p = .0938). Results were similar for diameter and carbon, with some genotype × environment interactions resulting in phytoremediation trees exhibiting substantially greater growth and productivity (i.e., +131% at one site). As illustrated in the current review, phytoremediation success can be increased with the identification and deployment of genotypes tailored to grow well and tolerate a broad diversity of contaminants (generalists) (i.e., 'DN34', 'NM6', '7300501') versus those that significantly outperform their counterparts under unique site conditions (specialists) (i.e., '220-5', '51-5', 'S13C20').


Zalesny, Ronald S.; Headlee, William L.; Gopalakrishnan, Gayathri; Bauer, Edmund O.; Hall, Richard B.; Hazel, Dennis W.; Isebrands, Jud G.; Licht, Louis A.; Negri, M. Cristina; Nichols, Elizabeth Guthrie; Rockwood, Donald L.; Wiese, Adam H. 2019. Ecosystem services of poplar at long‐term phytoremediation sites in the Midwest and Southeast, United States. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment. 8(6): 346-.


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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.