Today, one of the most serious environmental problems is the cultivation of land that has been contaminated with toxic industrial waste, including arsenic, antimony and tungsten, writes IFL Science .
Researchers know that these same elements can also be brought to the surface of the planet by natural processes, such as the bubbling of hot springs. Scientists believe that if we can understand how the environment dealt with these elements before the advent of man, we can cleanse the land of toxic waste.
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During the study, scientists turned to a place located west of Aberdeen (Scotland) – Rainy. This place has long been famous for its fossil life and abundance of petrified plants, which are well preserved thanks to the hot springs. The researchers believe that their study will help unravel the mystery of how this could happen.
The local “treasures” are among the earliest fossils on Earth – it is assumed that the detailed plants, insects, fungi and spiders were preserved thanks to hot springs about 410 million years ago.
Scientists note that the local hot springs also contain substances that are toxic to most life forms, and therefore scientists want to study in more detail how minerals deposited among plants extract toxic metals from spring water and thereby limit their impact on the environment.
Minerals and toxic metals
The researchers found that the ancient plants at Raini were encased in the mineral silica that is deposited around the hot springs. It is known that bacteria in the water are involved in the formation of these deposits, and the same process can be observed in other parts of the Earth, for example, in Spain, New Zealand and Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
In addition, scientists noticed that the fossils also contain certain minerals, including pyrite, manganese oxides, and titanium oxides – all of these minerals are produced by bacteria and other life forms, and then absorb toxic metals. For example:
- pyrite formed by bacteria absorbed arsenic;
- manganese oxides produced by fungi absorb arsenic;
- titanium oxides absorbed tungsten and antimony.
Scientists note that these data shed light on natural processes that have helped cleanse the environment of toxic elements since life first appeared on the planet.
The researchers also believe that mushrooms can help cleanse the earth, for this it is worth paying attention to a “natural” process called microremediation, in which mushrooms are able to concentrate and retain toxic elements in themselves.
Scientists already know that fungi can quickly adapt to substances and become resistant to substances we consider resistant. The strategy is to collect mushrooms that live in regions with a lot of mining or industrial waste and are predisposed to fighting them. Scientists suggest that in the future they can be used to restore land that has been poisoned by harmful metals.
The difficulty lies in the fact that the sediments in Raini were formed by hot springs, the codes of which preserved plant cells. However, they were also rich in arsenic, antimony, and other trace elements, so there is uncertainty as to how representative these fossils are of early plant communities.
John Parnell, professor of geology and petroleum geology at the University of Aberdeen, said the study shows that hot springs can actually play more than one role in cleansing the environment, and further research will be needed at Rainey Hot Springs to unlock their full potential in cleansing land. toxic substances.
Previously , Focus wrote about where water on Earth came from : scientists have proposed an unexpected theory.