Betula pendula (Silver birch) trees growing on two contaminated sites were evaluated to assess their capacity to phytoscreen and phytoremediate chlorinated aliphatic compounds and heavy metals. Both locations are industrially-contaminated properties in central Sweden. The first was the site of a trichloroethylene (TCE) spill in the 1980s while the second was polluted with heavy metals by burning industrial wastes. In both cases, sap and sapwood from Silver birch trees were collected and analyzed for either chlorinated aliphatic compounds or heavy metals. These results were compared to analyses of the surface soil, vadose zone pore air and groundwater. Silver birch demonstrated the potential to phytoscreen and possibly phytoremediate TCE and related compounds, but it did not demonstrate the ability to effectively phytoextract heavy metals when compared with hyperaccumulator plants. The capacity of Silver birch to phytoremediate TCE appears comparable to tree species that have been employed in field-scale TCE phytoremediation efforts, such as Populus spp. and Eucalyptus sideroxylon rosea.
Keywords: Betula pendula; birch; boreal; trichloroethylene.