Hyperaccumulation and transport mechanism of thallium and arsenic in brake ferns (Pteris vittata L.): A case study from mining area

Xudong Wei, Yuting Zhou, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Lan Song, Chaosheng Zhang, Meiling Yin, Juan Liu, Tangfu Xiao, Gaosheng Zhang, Jin Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)


Both thallium (Tl) and arsenic (As) bear severe toxicity. Brake fern (Pteris vittata L.) is well-known for its hyperaccumulation capacity of As, yet its role on Tl accumulation remains unknown. Herein, brake ferns growing near an As tailing site in Yunnan, Southwestern China are for the first time discovered as a co-hyperaccumulator of both Tl and As. The results showed that the brake ferns extracted both As and Tl efficiently from the soils into the fronds. The studied ferns growing on Tl and As co-polluted soils were found to accumulate extremely high levels of both As (7215–11110 mg/kg) and Tl (6.47–111 mg/kg). Conspicuously high bio-accumulation factor (BCF) was observed for As (7.8) and even higher for Tl (28.4) among these co-hyperaccumulators, wherein the contents of As and Tl in contaminated soils were 1240 ± 12 and 3.91 ± 0.01 mg/kg, respectively. The applied advanced characterization techniques (e.g. transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS)) indicated a preferential uptake of Tl(I) while simultaneous accumulation of As (III) and As(V) from the Tl(I)/Tl(III)-As (III)/As(V) co-existent rhizospheric soils. The findings benefit the phytoremediation practice and pose implications for managing and restoring Tl-As co-contaminated soils in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121756
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2020


  • Arsenic mining
  • Chinese brake fern
  • Soil remediation
  • Speciation/bioavailability
  • Thallium pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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