Plant and Soil

, Volume 379, Issue 1–2, pp 351–360 | Cite as

Effects of biochar amendment on root traits and contaminant availability of maize plants in a copper and arsenic impacted soil

  • Aoife Brennan
  • Eduardo Moreno Jiménez
  • Markus Puschenreiter
  • José Antonio Alburquerque
  • Christine Switzer
Regular Article


Background and aims

Biochar has been proposed as a tool to enhance phytostabilisation of contaminated soils but little data are available to illustrate the direct effect on roots in contaminated soils. This work aimed to investigate specific root traits and to assess the effect of biochar amendment on contaminant availability.


Amendment with two different types of biochar, pine woodchip and olive tree pruning, was assessed in a rhizobox experiment with maize planted in a soil contaminated with significant levels of copper and arsenic.


Amendment was found to significantly improve root traits compared to the control soil, particularly root mass density and root length density. Copper uptake to plants and ammonium sulphate extractable copper was significantly less in the biochar amended soils. Arsenic uptake and extractability varied with type of biochar used but was not considered to be the limiting factor affecting root and shoot development.


Root establishment in contaminated soils can be enhanced by biochar amendment but choice of biochar is key to maximising soil improvement and controlling contaminant availability.


Rhizobox Phytostabilisation Biochar Contaminated soil Availability 



This work was carried out as part of a STSM awarded to the lead author by EU COST Action TD1107 Biochar as an option for sustainable resource management. We thank Dr Peter Anderson at SETN (Scottish Environmental Technology Network) for the IC analysis. We thank Dr Saran Sohi of the UKBRC (UK Biochar Research Centre, University of Edinburgh), Edinburgh, for checking the manuscript before submission. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for improving the manuscript with their comments.

Supplementary material

11104_2014_2074_MOESM1_ESM.docx (42 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aoife Brennan
    • 1
  • Eduardo Moreno Jiménez
    • 2
  • Markus Puschenreiter
    • 3
  • José Antonio Alburquerque
    • 4
  • Christine Switzer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of StrathclydeGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Departamento de Química AgrícolaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Department of Forest and Soil SciencesUniversity of Natural Resources and Life Sciences ViennaTullnAustria
  4. 4.Área de Ecología, Departamento de Botánica, Ecología y Fisiología VegetalUniversidad de CórdobaCórdobaSpain

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