Advancing environmental design with phytoremediation of brownfield soils using spontaneous invasive plants

Xiwei Shen, Mengting Ge, Steven N. Handel, Wenji Wang, Zehua Jin, Niall G. Kirkwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Compared to traditional mechanical brownfield remediation strategies, phytoremediation as a sustainable and low-impact solution, yielding long-term soil chemical improvement. As a common part of many local plant communities, spontaneous invasive plants have advantages over native species in growth speed and resource-use efficiency and are many are effective on degrading or removing chemical soil pollutants. This research presents a methodology for using spontaneous invasive plants as the agent of phytoremediation for brownfield remediation is an innovative component of ecological restoration and design. This research explores s conceptual and applicable model of using spontaneous invasive plants in the phytoremediation of brownfield soil for environmental design practice. This research summarizes five parameters (Soil Drought Level, Soil Salinity, Soil Nutrients, Soil Metal Pollution, and Soil pH) and their classification standards. Based on the five parameters, a series of experiments were designed to examine 5 spontaneous invasive species' tolerance and performance to different soil conditions. Taking the research results as a data base, this research developed a conceptual model of selecting suitable spontaneous invasive plants for brownfield phytoremediation by overlaying the soil condition data and plants' tolerance data. Using a brownfield site in Boston metropolitan region as a case study, the research tested the feasibility and rationality of this model. The results propose a novel approach and materials for general environmental remediation of contaminated soil by involving spontaneous invasive plants. It also transforms the abstract phytoremediation knowledge and data to an applicable model which integrates and visualizes the requirements of scientific plant selection, design aesthetic, and ecosystem factors to help the environmental design process in brownfield remediation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number163635
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 20 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Brownfield remediation
  • Ecological restoration
  • Environmental design
  • Phytoremediation
  • Spontaneous invasive plant


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