Newswise — June 2, 2022 – Hydrocarbons from our cars, oil spills and industrial contamination can get into our waterways by many paths. Researchers recently studied if a common “willow moss” could work to soak up these hydrocarbons, and clean up waterways. The Soil Science Society of America is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Clean Air and Water Act. The June 2nd Soils Matter blog covers willow moss’ ability to clean water.

Willow moss is a species in the class Bryopsida, which includes over 11,000 moss species around the world. It is quite widespread and grows in fresh water. It has been found Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. Willow moss’ structure grows entirely underwater.

Willow moss is aptly named because it looks a bit like willow trees – with lots of surface area. That means the outer cells, called cell walls, have good contact with the hydrocarbons. The researchers dried willow moss, which is also called sphagnum moss. For experimental purposes, they set bags of the dried moss into streams in their study area – northwest Spain. They placed the bags in streams containing human-made pollution of varying levels.

The researchers found that the dried willow moss was excellent at absorbing both low and high concentrations of hydrocarbons. In fact, their paper calls the collection ability “astonishing!”

Using plants to clean water, soil and other natural resources is called phytoremediation. The researchers published their work in a the Journal of Environmental Quality (2021).

To learn more, read the full blog:

2022 marks the 50-year anniversary of the Clean Water Act. This Act aims to restore and maintain the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the nation’s water resources. Soil Science Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, and American Society of Agronomy are celebrating the Act by collecting blogs, news stories and research papers here. Be sure to subscribe to the Soils Matter blog to get updated information:

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The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1936, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members and 1,000+ certified professionals dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. The Society provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.