Professor of Soil Biogeochemistry at ENSAIA, Université de Lorraine

Research Activities

  • Definition and characterisation the availability of trace elements in soils (specialist of ultramafic soils).
  • Mechanisms involved in soil-to-plant transfer of trace elements (especially nickel).
    Mechanisms involved in metal hyperaccumulation and consequences on phytoextraction optimisation (use of X-ray absorption spectroscopy).
  • Survey of metal hyperaccumulator plants in ultramafic sites (Albania, Brazil, Greece, Indonesia, Malaisia, Mexico, N. Caledonia)
  • Phytomining / Agromining of Ni at the field scale, agronomic field trials (Albania, Greece, Malaysia, Spain)

Rehabilitation of Ni laterite mining sites with agromining systems for Ni recovery (Brazil, Cuba, Indonesia).

  • Leader of the phytoremediation research group of LSE (2013-2017), currently head of international relations at LSE (2018 on).
  • Elected Member of the Scientific Board of the Research Department OTELo at UL (2012-now), Member of the Scientific Board of the LABEX Ressources21 on Sustainable Mining at UL (2012-now), in charge of the transdisciplinary strategy.
  • UL co-Scientific coordinator of IRP SUCRE (2020-2024) between UL and SMI (University of Queensland).
  • Member of the scientific committee of International Conferences in Serpentine Ecology.
  • Associate Editor of the Journal of Hazardous Materials (IF=9.0)
  • Member of the Editorial Board of the journals International Journal of Phytoremediation (IF = 2.3),  Ecological Research (IF = 1.7) and Revista Brasileira de Ciência do Solo (IF = 1.0)
  • Associate editor of the Journal of Hazardous Materials (IF = 9.0) and of the Albanian Journal of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Invited Associate Editor of Australian Journal of Botany (2015) and Editor-in-Chief of Ecological Research (2018) for special issues.
  • Leader (Scientific Coordinator) of the EU-funded ERA-NET FACCE-JPI SURPLUS project ‘Agronickel’ (2016-2019) involving 7 countries and 9 partners and of the EU-funded ‘LIFE AGROMINE’ project (2016-2021) involving 5 countries and 7 partners. Both projects represent a total funding of 2.3 M€
  • With 5 other colleagues from UL, he founded ‘ECONICK’ in August 2016, a start-up for the production of agromined metals with 6 full staff members on January 1st 2021.

Research Achievements

Prof. Guillaume Echevarria has published 139 articles in international peer-reviewed journals, 15 book chapters; he has co-edited three research books including the current co-edition of the second version of a milestone book commissioned by SpringerNature: ‘Agromining: Farming for metals’ in partnership with colleagues from UQ and UL. He has a H-index of 33 (Web of Science) with over 3200 citations and of 41 (Google Scholar) with over 5200 citations. He has co-organised several symposia in the frame of International Conferences (ICOBTE). He is member of the permanent scientific board of the International Serpentine Ecology Society and co-organiser of the 2017 International Conference on Serpentine Ecology in Albania.

Research Impact

Prof. Guillaume Echevarria has developed world-class expertise in the field of the biogeochemistry of nickel in soil-plant environments. Working with the fate of radionuclides in the environment in the beginning of his career (including 63Ni, 99Tc and 238U), he pioneered the development of isotope dilution techniques (use of 63Ni as a tracer) in bioavailability studies of nickel in soil-plant systems. This tool (i.e. isotopic exchange kinetics) allowed proving that hyperaccumulator plants took up nickel from the same available pools as any other plant (non-accumulating species). More recently he developed, along with recognised stable isotope geochemists, new methods to understand nickel discrimination in ultramafic environmental processes. As such, he contributed to the first study in understanding nickel discrimination in hyperaccumulator plants from root uptake to litter decay in topsoils. With the help of such approaches, he targeted research in i) rhizosphere processes involved in nickel uptake by plants (with main focus on Ni-hyperaccumulator plants), in ii) the fate of Ni in the pedogenesis of ultramafic (i.e. serpentine) soils in temperate and tropical environments, and in iii) the ecophysiology of hyperaccumulator plants (in particular with the use of synchrotron techniques). On the applied side of his research, he is a pioneer in the agronomy of nickel agromining in Europe and participated in the setup of the first field trials in Europe and Southeast Asia. He now develops new research on ecosystem services provided by agromining systems in both temperate and tropical ultramafic environments.

He has co-organised four special symposia on serpentine ecology and agromining and has given three invited lectures at international conferences on phytomining. He organised a NATO Advanced Scientific Institute “Phytoremediation of metal-contaminated soils” in Trest (Czech Republic) for two weeks in August-September 2002 in which major scientists in the field participated. He later on co-edited a book with the same title (Springer) which was issued in 2006. He is member of the permanent scientific committee of the International Conference on Serpentine Ecology and was one of the two co-organisers of the last edition in Albania in June 2017 (9th ICSE). He was Section Editor (Soil Science) of the Scientific World Journal and is Associate Editor of the Albanian Journal of Agricultural Sciences. He was guest editor of the Northeastern Naturalist (2009), of Australian Journal of Botany (2014) and is currently the Invited Editor-in-Chief of Ecological Research (2017-2018). He was appointed in February 2021 Associate Editor of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, a top-ranked journal in Environmental Sciences.

Advancements to the research field

Prof. Echevarria has recognised world-class expertise on the use of radioactive isotopes in trace element biogeochemistry. He also has facilitated access to stable isotope performant tools (ICP-MS) (collaborations with Dr. Christophe Cloquet from the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques of the CNRS), to the services of Electron Microscopy of the Université de Lorraine (SEM/TEM-EDS, micro-probe) to the bench micro-XRF at LMOPS (UL). Together with collaborators he has undertaken experiments at the French Synchrotron in Paris – SOLEIL (collaborations with Dr. Valérie Briois – Principal scientist of the Samba Beamline) in Melbourne (Australian Synchrotron – Collaborations with Dr. Martin De Jonge) and in Hamburg (DESY – Collaborations with Dr. Kathryn Spiers) and at iThemba LABS for nuclear microprobe (micro-PIXE) techniques (Collaborations with Dr. Przybylowicz (iThemba, NRF, South Africa).

Prof. Echevarria speaks 6 languages fluently and this directly help him in building a strong research community around him in the field of phytomining and agromining. After 8 years of field research, he has taken the leadership in Europe in the field of agromining in 2013. With this goal, he started to build up a consortium of European partners who were already in the area or interested in implementing research in agromining. The consortium was created in 2014 and two projects were set to answer two European grant calls (ERA-NET FACCE SURPLUS in 2016, and LIFE ENVIRONMENT in 2015 and in 2016). Both projects were eventually selected and started in 2017. The amount of EU funding represents € 2.3 M and these two projects represent the major public funding of this topic up to now. The partners of the EU network in agromining are Agricultural University of Tirana (Albania), Eastern Macedonian and Thrace Institute of Technology (Greece), University for life sciences – BOKU (Austria), Centro Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain), Universita degli Studi di Firenze (Italy) and Jagellonian University (Poland).

In parallel with the establishment of a EU network, international collaborations outside EU were also sought via strong tights with two major partners: Dr. A. van der Ent and Prof. A.J.M. Baker, Honorary Professor at University of Queensland (and University of Melbourne) and Prof. R.L. Qiu from Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou, PRC). Through the strong collaborations with these two partner institutions, Prof. Guillaume Echevarria has participated in federating the global Agromining community. In particular, he provided temporary positions for Dr. van der Ent and Prof. Baker at UL which allowed a strong global networking on the topic. Also, an international joint laboratory was created with Prof. Qiu (SYSU) to strengthen agromining research in China (nickel, cadmium, zinc and rare earth elements). The global network he contributed to establish also includes other partners (Cuba, USA, Canada, Brazil) in the fields of Biogeochemistry of trace elements in soils, ecosystem services rendered by polluted soils and agromining (phytomining). He is responsible for many international collaborative agreements with international partners at Université de Lorraine and he is the Head of International Affairs in his Department (Laboratoire Sols et Environnement).

In conclusion, the expertise and skills of Prof. Echevarria in nickel biogeochemistry of ultramafic environments, in nickel-hyperaccumulator ecophysiology, in stable and radioactive isotope geochemistry and in the agronomy of phytomining crops will ensure significant advising for the proposed research.

Five significant publications since the appointment of Honorary Professor at CMLR

[6] Agromining: Farming for metals. Extracting Unconventional Resources Using Plants. 2018. A. van der Ent, G. Echevarria, A.J.M. Baker & J.L. Morel. (Eds). Mineral Resources Series, Springer International Publishing AG. 312 pp.

This book is the compilation of the global state-of-the-art on agromining that was edited with three other colleagues who all are pioneers in the development of agromining globally (temperate areas and tropics). Chapters of this book have already been cited 162 times since it was published. A second augmented edition was prepared in 2020 and published in 2021.

[7] Reeves, R.D., Baker, A.J.M., Jaffré, T., Erskine, P.D., Echevarria, G., van der Ent, A. 2018. A global database for plants that hyperaccumulate metal and metalloid trace elements. New Phytologist, 218, 407-411.

 This article is a seminal report of the current global knowledge of metal hyperaccumulator plants that has become viral. It reports the current figures and details the collaborative website that represents the unique database on the subject. This article has already been cited 121 times.

[8] Nkrumah, P.N., Tisserand, R., Chaney, R.L., Baker, A.J.M., Morel, J.L., Goudon, R., Erskine, P.D., Echevarria, G., van der Ent, A. 2019. The first tropical ‘metal farm’: some perspectives from field and pot experiments. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 198, 114–122.

This is the account of the first tropical agromining field trial globally. It was very recently issued and is the first corner stone to the development of nickel agromining in tropical regions, and in particular in Sabah (Malaysia). This article has already been cited 19 times.

[9] van der Ent, A., Pollard, A. J., Echevarria, G., Erskine, P.D. 2019. X-Ray Fluorescence Ionomics of Herbarium Collections. Scientific Reports, in press

This article is a landmark that explains the methodology of massive herbarium XRF scanning that has been developed between UQ and UL teams over the years and the main outcomes in two regions of the world : New Caledonia and Sabah (Malaysia). This article has already been cited 14 times.

[10] Navarrete Gutiérrez, D.M., Nkrumah, P.N., van der Ent, A., Pollard, A.J., Baker, A.J.M., Navarrete Torralba, F., Pons, M.N., Cuevas Sánchez, J.A., Gómez Hernández, T.,  Echevarria, G. 2021. The potential of Blepharidium guatemalense for nickel agromining in Mexico and Central America. International Journal of Phytoremediation, in press (DOI: 10.1080/15226514.2021.1881039)

This article reports the discovery of a new hyperaccumulator species thanks to XRF massive herbarium scaning and field exploration and the first agronomic trials to evaluate the potential of this tree for the implementation for nickel agromining in Central America. It is a typical example of the methodology developed in common between the teams at UL and UQ, which makes ‘SUCRE’ the leading team globally in metal agromining.