The soil–root interface is the micro‐ecosystem where roots uptake metals. However, less than 10% of hyperaccumulators’ rhizosphere has been examined. The present study evaluated the root and shoot response to nickel in hyperaccumulator and non‐hyperaccumulator species, through the analysis of root surface and biomass and the ecophysiological response of the related aboveground biomass. Ni‐hyperaccumulators Alyssoides utriculata (L.) Medik. and Noccaea caerulescens (J. Presl and C. Presl) F.K. Mey. and non‐hyperaccumulators Alyssum montanum L. and Thlaspi arvense L. were grown in pot on Ni‐spiked soil (0–1000 mg Ni kg−1, total). Development of root surfaces was analysed with ImageJ; fresh and dry root biomass was determined. Photosynthetic efficiency was performed by analysing the fluorescence of chlorophyll a to estimate the plants’ physiological conditions at the end of the treatment. Hyperaccumulators did not show a Ni-dependent decrease in root surfaces and biomass (except Ni 1000 mg kg−1 for N. caerulescens). The non‐hyperaccumulator A. montanum suffers metal stress which threatens plant development, while the excluder T. arvense exhibits a positive ecophysiological response to Ni. The analysis of the root system, as a component of the rhizosphere, help to clarify the response to soil nickel and plant development under metal stress for bioremediation purposes.
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