This review synthesizes contemporary understanding of copper-cobalt (Cu-Co) tolerance and accumulation in plants. Accumulation of foliar Cu and Co to > 300 μg g-1 is exceptionally rare globally, and known principally from the Copperbelt of Central Africa. Cobalt accumulation is also observed in a limited number of nickel (Ni) hyperaccumulator plants occurring on ultramafic soils around the world. None of the putative Cu or Co hyperaccumulator plants appears to comply with the fundamental principle of hyperaccumulation, as foliar Cu-Co accumulation is strongly dose-dependent. Abnormally high plant tissue Cu concentrations occur only when plants are exposed to high soil Cu with a low root to shoot translocation factor. Most Cu-tolerant plants are Excluders sensu Baker and therefore setting nominal threshold values for Cu hyperaccumulation is not informative. Abnormal accumulation of Co occurs under similar circumstances in the Copperbelt of Central Africa as well as sporadically in Ni hyperaccumulator plants on ultramafic soils; however, Co-tolerant plants behave physiologically as Indicators sensu Baker. Practical application of Cu-Co accumulator plants in phytomining is limited due to their dose-dependent accumulation characteristics, although for Co field trials may be warranted on highly Co-contaminated mineral wastes because of its relatively high metal value.
Keywords: accumulation; cobalt (Co); copper (Cu); hyperaccumulation; metal tolerance; metallophyte; phytomining; toxicity.
© 2016 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2016 New Phytologist Trust.