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Cleaning Malaysia Brownfields by Brownfield Rangers

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Bioremediation of heavy metals with hyper-accumulator plants grown in several different types of Brownfield sites in Malaysia.



A comprehensive study will be carry out in order to determine the bioremediation of heavy metals with potentially selected hyper-accumulator plants grown in several different types of Brownfield sites (any potential contaminated sites) located in Malaysia.

All highly selected hyper-accumulator tropical plants were grown in control soil and contaminated Brownfield soil for a specific period of time under the glasshouse experiment (ex-situ remediation) and on actual Brownfield sites (in-situ experiment). The concentration and accumulation of heavy metals from soil to roots; shoots and possibly the fruits of tropical plants will be evaluated in terms of biotranslocation factor (BTF) and bioaccumulation factor (BAF) to determine the source sink relationships and heavy metals uptake ability by the tropical plants grown in Brownfield condition.

Statistical analysis of the trends and mechanisms of heavy metals accumulation in tropical plants on various Brownfield soils will be evaluated using Fisher’s least significant difference (LSD) comparison method by considering a level of significance at (p < 0.01). The morphological and physiological characteristics of tropical plants grown in all of the Brownfield sites will be assessed and monitored throughout the research study and the application  use of chelating agents will added in order to enhance the heavy metal uptake availability of tropical plants within the shortest duration at all of the Brownfield sites.

And eventually, the ideal hyper-accumulator tropical plants will be proposed to be used commercially at the contaminated Brownfield sites located at Malaysia.

Key actor

Grassroots neighborhood organizations

What actions do you propose?

Methods and Design: Two sets of tropical plants will be tested in Brownfield soils (Five species of short duration and quick growing vegetables crop as well as five species of quick growing and hyper-accumulator woody plant/tree) growing on four different types of Brownfield sites, (Ex-mining/quarry; ex-landfill/dumpsite; ex-industrial/agricultural site; and abandoned housing site).

Project Objectives:

  1. To identify potential tropical plants to remediate Brownfield soils;
  2. To assess morphological and physiological characteristics of tropical plants grown in Brownfield soils;
  3. To determine source sink relationships and heavy metals uptake ability by tropical plants grown in Brownfield soils;
  4. To enhance heavy metal uptake availability of tropical plants using chelating agents in Brownfield soils;
  5. To quantify dispersion and mobility of heavy metals using mixed woody biomass plant and short duration crop plant in Brownfield soils;
  6. To evaluate phytobial remediation to clean up Brownfield soils; and
  7. To understand uptake mechanisms of heavy metals by tropical plants and the fate of heavy metals in plant tissue.


Research Design

 Two sets of tropical plants will be tested in Brownfield soils

     A. Two species of short duration and quick growing vegetables crop –

Amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus), A1
Indian mustard (Brassica juncea), A2

    B. Seven species of quick growing and hyper-accumulator woody/shrub plants –

Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis), B1
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides), B2
Lantana (Lantana camara), B3
Kenaf (Hibiscus cannabinus), B4
Jatropha (Jatropha curcas), B5
Acacia (Acacia mangium), B6
Sunflower (Helianthus annus), B7

*All species chosen are subject to change depending on the availability and capability to accumulate (bioremediate) heavy metals at Brownfield sites.

Brownfield soil sites

Levels – 4

Brownfield site A, (Ex-mining/quarry site)

Brownfield site B, (Ex-landfill/dumpsite)

Brownfield site C, (Ex-industrial/agricultural site)

Brownfield site D, (Abandoned housing site or unused land)

All treatment will be tested using different spiked solutions of heavy metals and control condition. The experiment will be conducted under completely randomized design (CRD) with five replications in each treatment.

Statistical Analysis

The brownfield sites (soil) will be selected from those with a former industrial use, wasteland or areas adjacent to industrial processes. All soils will be collected for determination of preliminary soil chemistry using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

The roots, stems, leaves, and fruits of each tropical plant will be determined using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) too before statistical analysis of one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) is carry out to evaluate the effects by the accumulation of heavy metals while test for significant differences in means will be carry out using Fisher’s least significant difference (LSD) comparison method by considering a level of significance at (p < 0.01).

Correlation coefficients will also be used to determine the association and relationship between plant morphology, plant physiology, and plant growth with the effects of heavy metals accumulation in the Malaysian tropical plants.



Who will take these actions?

I will take lead in the research project and subsequently implement the use of hyper-accumulator plants for bio-remediation strategy in Brownfield sites in Malaysia.

Where will these actions be taken?

Generally, the entire research project will be fully conducted at University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA. (Institute Biological Sciences’ glasshouse and Chemistry Department’ laboratory)

Besides that, both in-situ (on-site / site experiment for all selected Brownfield sites that found within Peninsular Malaysia) and ex-situ (off-site / glasshouse experiment) remediation strategies will be undertaken too in order to ensure the effectiveness and capabilities of the highly selected tropical plants in remediating (clean up) contaminated soil condition.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

It is expected to help to reduce a significant level of 12% of carbon emissions by implementing phyto planting in all Brownfield sites throughout the nations.

What are other key benefits?

1) Promote awareness of Brownfield conditions in Malaysia; and

2) Increase the carbon sink in plants as well as remediating the contaminated Brownfield soils.

What are the proposal’s costs?

Research Project Materials

  1. Glasswares (Burette, beakers, pipette, cylinder cones and etc.)  USD2000
  2. Laboratory apparatus and equipment [Usage and rental fees probes} USD3000
  3. Soil sampling and collection equipment (Spade, hoe, soil meter, soil coring, soil drilling and etc.) USD1800
  4. Printing materials, markers, measuring tape and etc.) USD200
  5. Plant seedlings and planting materials (Plastic pots, seedlings, fertilizer and etc.) USD1000


Transportation/Travel (Fieldtrips) and Training

  1. Travel fees (Petrol and highway toll fees) USD2000 [To and fro from university glasshouse/laboratory to various Brownfield sites]
  2. Accommodation and logistics (Ex-situ/on site research experiments) USD2000                                          
  3. Mobile reload contacts (Communication cost)    USD500   


Special Services and Literatures

  1. Glasshouse maintenance (Repairment of roof and glass) USD500                                                                 
  2. Installation of auto-watering timer at glasshouse  USD500                                            
  3. Purchase of relevant scientific references (Articles, books, journals and etc.) USD500
  4. Attending scientific conferences and organizing public seminars  USD1000


TOTAL                        USD 15000

Time line

Milestone Dates and Gantt chart

Final identification of Brownfield sites and approval for experimental project                              End Jan 2014

Soil collection and initial soil assessments from all sites                                                                      Mid Feb 2014

Seedlings purchase and plants nurturing                                                                                                  End Feb 2014

Glasshouse (ex-situ) experiments                                                                                                              End June 2014

Field/site (in-situ) experiments                                                                                                                   End Sept 2014

Plants observation and monitoring (data collection)                                                                             Mid Oct 2014

Laboratory work (chemical analysis)                                                                                                       Mid Nov 2014            

Conducted academic seminars                                                                                                                 End Nov 2014      


Related proposals

Description of Project Areas


  1. Soil Bioremediation (phytoremediation) – use of biological processes to degrade, break down, transform, and/or essentially remove contaminants or impairments of quality of soil condition. It is a natural process which relies on the function of plants to alter contaminants as these plants organisms carry out their normal life functions. Metabolic processes of these organisms are capable of using chemical contaminants as an energy source, rendering the contaminants harmless or less toxic products in most cases.


  1. Plant Physiology – the sub-discipline study of botany concerned with the functioning (physiology) of plants that include plant morphology (structure of plants), plant ecology (interactions with the environment), phytochemistry (biochemistry of plants), cell biology, genetics, biophysics and molecular biology.


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