Rachel Giroux, Beth Karwaski, Kenneth M. Klemow, Therese Wignot, Donald Mencer, and Brian Whitman. 2006. ROLE OF PLANT ARCHITECTURE AND CUTICULAR FEATURES IN REMOVING IRON FROM WETLANDS CONSTRUCTED TO TREAT ABANDONED MINE DRAINAGE. Contributed poster: Pennsylvania Academy of Science meeting. Abstract: Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 79:109.
Plants living in constructed wetlands used to treat abandoned mine drainage (AMD) often contribute to water-quality improvement because they filter heavy metals like iron from the contaminated discharge. Yet little is known about the relative ability of different plant species to trap heavy metals. We sought (1) to assess differences in iron-trapping ability among plants growing in an AMD treatment wetland in Luzerne County, PA., and (2) to determine whether species having higher-trapping ability have a more intricately branching architecture or surface/cuticular features that facilitate iron retention. Based upon examination of the aboveground parts (stems and leaves), we found that one species (water-starwort) retained far more iron than the other four species (cattail, soft rush, great bulrush. and bur-reed). Water starwort had a much more complex branching pattern than did the other four species, thus supporting the hypothesis that iron retention is significantly influenced by plant architecture. Cuticular analysis by organic extraction followed by gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS) proved inconclusive, though work continues toward determining the role of surface/cuticular features on iron retention.