Testing the effectiveness of phytoscreening to monitor shallow groundwater contamination by chlorinated ethenes

Leoncini, Carlotta (2022) Testing the effectiveness of phytoscreening to monitor shallow groundwater contamination by chlorinated ethenes, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Scienze della terra, della vita e dell'ambiente, 34 Ciclo.
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The research presented herein aims to investigate the strengths and weaknesses of a relatively new technique called phytoscreening. Parallel to the well-known phytoremediation, it consists of exploiting the absorbing potential of trees to delineate groundwater contamination plumes, especially for chlorinated ethenes (i.e., PCE, TCE, 1,2-cis DCE, and VC). The latter are prevalent contaminants in groundwater but their fate and transport in surface ecosystems, such as trees, are still poorly understood and subjected to high variability. Moreover, the analytical validity of tree-coring is still limited in many countries due to a lack of knowledge of its application opportunities. Tree-cores are extracted from trunks and generally analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. A systematic review of former literature on phytoscreening for chlorinated ethenes is presented in this PhD thesis to evaluate the factors influencing the effectiveness of the technique. Besides, we tested the technique by probing eight sites contaminated by chlorinated ethenes in Italy (Emilia-Romagna) in different hydrogeological and seasonal settings. We coupled the technique with the assessment of gaseous-phase concentrations directly on-site, inserting detector tubes or a photoionization detector in the tree-holes left by the coring tool. Finally, we applied rank order statistic analysis on field data along with literature data to assess under which conditions phytoscreening should be applied to either screen or monitor environmental contamination issues. A relatively high correlation exists between tree-core and groundwater concentrations (Spearman’s ρ > 0.6), being higher for compounds with higher sorption, for sites with shallower and thinner aquifers, and when sampling specific tree types with standardized sampling and extraction protocols. These results indicate the opportunities for assessing the occurrence, type, and concentration of solvents directly from the stem of trees. This can reduce the costs of characterization surveys, allowing rapid identification of hotspots and plume direction and thus optimizing the drilling of boreholes.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Leoncini, Carlotta
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
phytoscreening, chlorinated ethenes, meta-analysis
Data di discussione
17 Giugno 2022

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