154 Growth and Physiological Effects of Copper in Prosopis Pubescens

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Ballroom A+B (Camino Real Hotel)
Marian Viveros, Ph.D. Candidate , Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX
Joanne Ellzey , Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX
Phytoremediation is an emerging technology for cleaning industrial and urban contamination (Peuke and Rennenberg, 2005). To remediate local soils, desert plants have been investigated for their ability to uptake heavy metals. Heavy metals may cause physiological, structural, and/or molecular effects which indicate transport, sequestration or immobilization mechanisms of those metals. The effects of heavy metal toxicity are apparent when the growth of the plant is impaired.
I will be using Prosopis pubescens to investigate the biological effects of copper toxicity and tolerance. I will focus on these objectives: 1) Determine effect on germination rates; 2) Verify physiological changes due to copper; 3) Light microscopy will be used to identify structural changes; 4) Spectrophotometer will reveal pigment changes, as well as, total protein changes; and 5) Identify toxicity and tolerance thresholds.
Both copper nitrate and copper sulfate toxicity have severely affected the germination rate of screwbean mesquite seeds. The germination rate dropped dramatically at 400ppm of copper nitrate and 500ppm of copper sulfate. Copper nitrate also affected the root growth of two-week-old seedlings by a 0.2 cm reduction in length. No root length changes were observed with copper sulfate treatments. Four photosynthetic pigments were tested to determine physiological consequences of copper toxicity. The overall result was an increase of all pigments due to either copper tolerance and/or toxicity.

Understanding detrimental effects due to coppe in screwbean mesquite has important implications for predicting the future of desert phytoremediation.

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