Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Tree That Eats Metal Was Just Discovered In The Philippines

Plants have evolved to exclude any metal from their roots or in any of the surrounding soil. Most plants do this, but not a particular plant called the Rinorea Niccolifera. It was discovered in the jungles of the Philippines and can accumulate up to 18,000 ppm of metal in its leaves and roots without being poisoned. This is 100 to 1000 times the amount of metal that normal plants can take in. Researchers at the University of the Phillippines – Los Banos that described the species in a new report also discovered that its ability to eat toxic levels of metals could make the tree a great solution to toxic waste sites around the planet. This is why this discovery is so important.
It is a small tree, normally 1.8 meters tall with a stem ranging from 3 to 13 centimetres in diameter.
You can access the full study HERE.
“Hyper-accumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies, for example, phytoremediation and phytomining,” – Dr. Augustine Doronila, University of Melbourne, senior author of the study.(source)
The study was part of the Program on the Rehabilitation and Restoration of Mining Areas through Phytotechnologies which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology.
The name niccolifera refers to the ability of this species to hyper-accumulate the heavy metal nickel in its stem and leaf tissues.

Conservation Status and Practical Applications

Unfortunately, like so many other species this one is categorized as ‘Endangered.’ Its habitat is severely “fragmented” and has so far been recorded only from three adjacent localities from its current known area of occupancy, which is less than 500km and continuing to decline. The study mentioned that much of this new species is subject to open pit mining and industrialization.
Again, these plants are considered “hyper-accumulator plants,” and we should be exploiting their accumulation traits for practical applications, especially (as the study also mentions) for environmentally clean green technologies.
“The idea of deploying plants in the fight for cleaner ecosystems is not new; using them for the purpose of extracting metals from contaminated soil started to get popular in the 1990s.” (source)
We’ve known these things for so long, and our window of opportunity won’t be here forever.

Final Thoughts

It’s unfathomable to think about how much of Earth we have destroyed, how many of its lungs we have stabbed and how we continue to progress forward with processes of destruction (development) when there are better ways of doing things. It’s time to work with nature and understand it, not against it and destroy it.
The solutions to our current problems and ways of life exist, and they exist in the many. The problem lies within us, in order for new technologies and a more advanced way of living on Earth to be implemented, the people of Earth must change first. We are faced with so many distractions on a daily basis, focusing on our own lives and doing what we have to do to survive in this world so much so that we really haven’t paid much attention to what is really happening on our planet as a collective. It’s time for change, it’s time for big change and discoveries like this one can help get us there.
Sources:

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