Plant-microbe associations to reduce particulate matter concentration and toxicity in urban areas: a multidisciplinary approach (Research)
Air pollutants (and more in particular PM) are a recognized cause of morbidity and mortality, and epidemiological studies confirm that reducing air pollutants leads to improved health. Although it is hard to identify the exact mechanisms for PM toxicity, it is generally accepted that PM toxicity is due to the reactive oxygen species generated on their surface, which is related to surface-associated environmentally persistent free radicals. Plants are known to adsorb significant amounts of PM and in this way improve air quality. We hypothesize that plant-associated bacteria possessing plant growth promoting (PGP) traits and antioxidative capacity not only play an important role in reducing and detoxifying PM, but also can be further exploited by means of inoculation. In this project, bacterial populations are isolated from Hedera helix growing in highly polluted urban areas. Isolated strains are characterized for their potential PGP and antioxidative capacities. After a full genome sequencing, most promising strains are selected for inoculation experiments. Then, non-inoculated and inoculated plants are exposed to controlled levels of PM in climate chambers. Next, proof of concept is established using Hedera helix growing in a highly polluted urban area. The effect of inoculation is evaluated by assessing PM concentrations and toxicity. Finally, based on these data, the ecosystem service air purification is quantified and its positive impact on human health validated.
Period of project
01 January 2016 - 31 December 2019