Pathways of Nickel Accumulation in Tropical Hyperaccumulator Plant Species (New Caledonia)

Hyperaccumulators are unusual plants that accumulate particular metals or metalloids in their living tissues to levels that may be orders of magnitude greater than is normal for most plants growing on similar soils. Discovering hyperaccumulators and understanding their agronomy could lead to identifying potential species to be utilized in novel phytotechnologies such as phytomining for phytoextraction of valuable metals.

Currently, there are approximately 450 documented Ni hyperaccumulators worldwide. The majority of the nickel hyperaccumulators have been recorded in Cuba (130), Southern Europe and Minor Asia (80–90), and Malaysia (24). In New Caledonia there are 65 documented Ni hyperaccumulators. One of the most unusual is the tree Pycnandra acuminata, endemic to New Caledonia, which has a latex that contains up to 25.7 Wt% nickel colouring it blue-green from nickel ions.

Elucidating the cellular distribution and pathways of nickel accumulation in tropical hyperaccumulator plant species

The current research has been undertaken as part of Vidiro Gei’s PhD project. Her study aimed to spatially resolve the elemental distribution in five different New Caledonian nickel hyperaccumulator plant species using synchrotron-based micro-X-ray Fluorescence imaging. The experiments were undertaken at X-ray fluorescence beamline (P06) of PETRA III (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron; DESY) in Hamburg, Germany with collaborators from New Caledonia and France. Read more in the BBC news story "The tree that bleeds... metal?"

Project members

Antony van der Ent

Dr Antony van der Ent

Senior Research Fellow, UQ Amplify Researcher
Peter Erskine

Associate Professor Peter Erskine

Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation, Sustainable Minerals Institute
Group Leader
Ecosystem Assessment, Restoration and Resilience