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Biological Methods of Polluted Soil Remediation for an Effective Economically-Optimal Recovery of Soil Health and Ecosystem Services

Author(s): Rafael G. Lacalle, José M. Becerril, Carlos Garbisu

Soil is one of our most important resources as it supports many critical ecological functions and ecosystem services. Nonetheless, due to a wide variety of environmentally-unsustainable anthropic activities, sadly, our soils are currently contaminated at a global scale with a myriad of potentially toxic inorganic and organic compounds. Regrettably, most, if not all, traditional physicochemical methods of soil remediation are frequently based on economically-infeasible and/or environmentally-destructive techniques. In consequence, in the last years and decades, more sustainable and innovative biological methods of soil remediation (belonging to the sometimes called “gentle remediation options”) are being developed in an attempt to combine: (i) an efficient removal of soil contaminants (in terms of a decrease of total and/or bioavailable contaminant concentrations), (ii) a reduction of soil ecotoxicity, (iii) the legally- and ethically-required minimization of risk for environmental and human health, and, concomitantly, (iv) a recovery of soil health and (v) associated ecosystem services. Ideally, any soil remediation method should not only decrease the concentration of soil contaminants below regulatory limits but should also recover soil health and alongside the provision of essential ecosystem services. Unquestionably, all this must be achieved in full compliance with the binding environmental regulations and, most importantly, via the implementation of economically-feasible (preferably, profitable) strategies of soil remediation.

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