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I understand that tree roots help mitigate pollution in a variety of ways, and I imagine to greatly varying extents. I get the general idea (I'll describe my thoughts below) but would like clarification through a diagram or scientific study, neither of which I can find.

I've read studies on riparian forest effects on water quality, but am not aware of (and didn't easily find) studies that zoom in on how tree roots specifically reduce pollution. My current understanding is that tree roots mitigate pollution in the following ways:

  • storing pollutants, by catching it (e.g. holding sediment in place) or through sorption (by plant or its associated microbial community), and
  • fostering microbial life in and around plant matter which will degrade & transform pollutants into less harmful forms.

To reiterate: I'm looking for scientific studies and/or diagrams clarifying how do tree roots mitigate pollution?

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    $\begingroup$ Is this more appropriate for biology.se? I ask as I found very few tags I expected to see for this: plant-physiology, botany, water-quality, trees. I could add those but am not sure this is the right place for this topic - my initial thought is that this has to do with processes of Earth's natural environment. $\endgroup$ – cr0 Jul 6 '16 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ I would agree that the question is more biology.se related. $\endgroup$ – daniel.heydebreck Jul 7 '16 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ Two aspects to this: The biochemistry and microbiology, and its relation to nutrients like phosphate and nitrate, are of course biology, and off topic. On the other hand, physical processes, such as roots inhibiting erosion of soil particles, and the build up of salt around tree roots, influence sediment transport, and so could be construed as Earth Sciences. $\endgroup$ – Gordon Stanger Jul 7 '16 at 7:49