Biological approaches to land and water restoration

Author: Brenda Parker

Bioremediation is the use of plants or microbes to degrade or sequester pollutants from the environment. While this has been a topic of intense academic research, few, if any, of the findings have been translated into widely applied technologies. Understanding the key barriers for clean up of contaminants is essential for designing bioremediation strategies. Through extensive interviews and field visits, Brenda discovered that while funding was acknowledged as a potential barrier for clean up, technological know-how; access to information and data as well as willingness to accept responsibility by industry posed greater problems for remediation. When designing remediation strategies several key criteria are proposed: design for maximum pollutant removal rather than cost; ensure reparability of equipment and conduct a user-centred design study before implementation. An exercise performed with design students at Tsinghua University is summarised in relation to the need for transdisciplinary approaches to remediation. Joint approaches such as this will be necessary in future for successful interventions. The report concludes by reviewing emerging, and potentially controversial, technologies for bioremediation such as synthetic biology and highlights the need for clear governance.