Research Network for Metals in Medicine

 

 

Professor Alan J. M. Baker

Affiliation: School of Botany, University of Melbourne

Postal Address:
School of Botany
University of Melbourne
VIC 3010
AUSTRALIA

Phone: +61 (3) 8344 5055
Fax: +61 (3) 9349 4523
Email: ajmb@unimelb.edu.au
Webpage: http://www.botany.unimelb.edu.au/botanyunimelb/1pages/research/labs/baker/default.html


Research Profile

Long-standing research focuses on the ecophysiological responses of plants to heavy metal toxicity; evolution of heavy metal tolerance; hyperaccumulation of metallic elements; serpentine ecology; geobotanical and biogeochemical exploration; biomonitoring of heavy metal pollution; revegetation of metalliferous mine wastes; development of phytoremediation technology for metal-polluted soils and effluents.
Professor Alan Baker heads the new Applied Plant Ecology Research Group in the School of Botany. The group adopts an integrated science/application-driven approach to develop sustainable biotechnologies for the prevention, management and remediation of environmental contamination. The main research themes are:

  • Reclamation: Revegetation and stabilization of contaminated and degraded soils, mineral wastes and brownfield sites.
  • Phytoremediation: A 'green' technology that harnesses the power of plants and microbes to remove metals/metalloids from soils, and also to degrade organic contaminants in situ on these sites.
  • Biomining: The use of plants and bacteria to enhance the extraction of metals from low grade or part-processed ores that would be uneconomical to process by chemical means.
  • Bioprospecting/biogeochemical reconnaissance: The use of indicator species, plant community structure and the metal contents of plants and surface soils as tools for identifying the mineral composition of the underlying geology.
Professor Baker's research group is actively involved in several restoration projects. One is focused on the revegetation of gold mine tailings contaminated with copper, arsenic and cyanide compounds. Using a range of novel biosolids and amendment techniques, the plan is to cap a highly toxic tailings dam and waste products storage areas in a way that will promote sustainable management of the area. In the long term it is hoped that the revegetated area will produce a variety of cash crops, adding value to the local community after the mine is no longer profitable. This project is funded through an ARC-LINK contract with Curtin University and Stawell Gold Mines, Victoria. Dr Steve Whiting (Research Fellow) has recently shown that some plants which naturally bioaccumulate metals in their tissues are able to ameliorate the toxic environment around their roots, allowing the concurrent establishment of less-tolerant species. With more research, including a field-scale trial, this discovery may add a whole new technology to the field of soil revegetation and rehabilitation.
Phytoremediation is the use of plants as a cost-effective method of 'harvesting' pollutants from contaminated substrates. Some plants naturally accumulate exceptionally high concentrations of metals (hyperaccumulators) and Professor Baker’s group is studying the growth and physiology of these hyperaccumulator plants, and how they can be improved to enhance the rate and efficiency of phytoextraction. Recent findings indicate that these plants have exceptional root systems which have evolved for scavenging metals from the soil. Furthermore, the roots of some of these plants actively mobilize (solubilize) metals in the soil to maximize their bioavailability. An additional breakthrough is the discovery that soil microbes (bacteria and fungi) might be pivotal for mobilizing metals for hyperaccumulator plants growing on some soils.


Selected Publications

  1. U. Krämer, J. Cotter-Howells, J. M. Charnock, A. J. M. BAKER & J. A. C. Smith (1996). Free histidine as a metal chelator in plants that accumulate nickel. Nature, 379, 635-638.
  2. A. J. Pollard & A. J. M. BAKER (1996). Quantitative genetics of zinc hyperaccumulation in Thlaspi caerulescens. New Phytologist, 132, 113-118.
  3. R. D. Reeves, A. J .M. BAKER, A. Borhidi & R. Berazaín. (1996). Nickel-accumulating plants from the ancient serpentine soils of Cuba. New Phytologist, 133, 217-224.
  4. M. M. Lasat, A. J. M. BAKER & L. V. Kochian (1996). Physiological characterization of root Zn2+ absorption and translocation to shoots in Zn hyperaccumulator and nonaccumulator species of Thlaspi. Plant Physiology, 112, 1715-1722.
  5. A. J. Pollard & A. J. M. BAKER (1997). Deterrence of herbivory by zinc hyperaccumulation in Thlaspi caerulescens (Brassicaceae). New Phytologist, 135, 655-658.
  6. R. L. Chaney, M. Malik, Y. M. Li, S. L. Brown, J. S. Angle & A. J. M. BAKER (1997). Phytoremediation of soil metals. Current Opinions in Biotechnology, 8, 279-284.
  7. A. J. M. BAKER, J. L. Morel & C. Schwartz (1997). Des plantes pour dépolluer les friches industrielles. Biofutur, 169, 30-33.
  8. Z. H. Ye, A. J. M. BAKER, M. H. Wong & A. J. Willis (1997). Zinc, lead and cadmium tolerance, uptake and accumulation by Typha latifolia. New Phytologist, 136, 469-480.
  9. Z. H. Ye, A. J. M. BAKER, M. H. Wong & A. J. Willis (1997). Copper and nickel uptake, accumulation and tolerance in Typha latifolia with and without iron plaque on the root surface. New Phytologist, 136, 481-488.
  10. A. Dobson, A. D. Bradshaw & A. J. M. BAKER (1997). Hopes for the future: resortation ecology and conservation biology. Contributed article for Special Issue on The Biology of Human-dominated Ecosystems, Science, 277, 515-522, 25 July 1997.
  11. Z. H. Ye, A. J. M. BAKER, M. H. Wong & A. J. Willis (1997). Zinc, lead and cadmium tolerance, uptake and accumulation by Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steudel. Annals of Botany, 80, 363-370.
  12. U. Krämer, G. W. Grime, J. A. C. Smith, C. R. Hawes & A. J. M. BAKER (1997). Micro-PIXE as a technique for studying nickel localization in leaves of the hyperaccumulator plant Alyssum lesbiacum. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B, 130, 346-350.
  13. K. I. Köhl, F. A. Harper, A. J. M. BAKER & J. A. C. Smith (1997). Defining a metal-hyperaccumulator plant: the relationship between metal uptake, allocation and metal tolerance. Plant Physiology, 114, 124.
  14. A. Dobson, A. D. Bradshaw & A. J. M. BAKER (1997). Response to Letters on Restoring Ecosystems, by W. Richer; J. Aronson & R. Hobbs and A. M. Shapiro, Science, 278, 999-1000, 7 November 1997.
  15. Z. Ye, A. J. M. BAKER, M.-H. Wong & A. J. Willis (1998). Lead, zinc and cadmium accumulation and tolerance in Typha latifolia as affected by iron plaque on the root surface. Aquatic Botany, 61, 55-67.
  16. Z. H. Ye, M. H. Wong, A. J. M. BAKER & A. J. Willis (1998). Comparison of biomass and metal uptake between two populations of Phragmites australis grown in flooded and dry conditions. Annals of Botany, 82, 83-87.
  17. M. M. Lasat, A. J. M. BAKER & L. V. Kochian (1998). Altered Zn compartmentation in the root symplasm and stimulated Zn absorption into the leaf as mechanisms involved in Zn hyperaccumulation in Thlaspi caerulescens. Plant Physiology, 118, 875-883.
  18. R. D. Reeves, A. J. M. BAKER, A. Borhidi & R. Berazaín (1999). Nickel hyperaccumulation in the serpentine flora of Cuba. Annals of Botany, 83, 29-38.
  19. D. E. Salt, R. C. Prince, A. J. M. BAKER, I. Raskin & I. J. Pickering (1999). Zinc ligands in the metal hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens as determined using X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Environmental Science & Technology, 33, 713-717.
  20. F. Malaisse, A. J. M. BAKER & B. Leteinturier (1999) Les espèces de Buchnera L. (Scrophulariaceae) des gisements cupro-cobaltifères du Haut-Katanga (Rép. Dém. du Congo). Géo-Eco-Trop, 21 (1997), 51-64 .
  21. B. Leteinturier, A. J. M. BAKER & F. Malaisse (1999). Early stages of natural revegetation of metalliferous mine workings in South Central Africa: a preliminary survey. Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement, 3, 28-41.
  22. Z. H. Ye, J. W. C. Wong, M. H. Wong, C. Y. Lan & A. J. M. BAKER (1999). Lime and pig manure as ameliorants for the revegetation of lead/zinc mine tailings: a greenhouse study. Bioresource Technology, 69, 35-45.
  23. C. Schwartz, J. L. Morel, S. Saumier, S. N. Whiting & A. J. M. BAKER (1999). Root development of the zinc-hyperaccumulator plant Thlaspi caerulescens as affected by metal origin, content and localization in the soil. Plant and Soil, 208, 103-115.
  24. F. Malaisse, A. J. M. BAKER & S. Ruelle (1999). Diversity of plant communities and leaf heavy metal content at Luiswishi copper/cobalt mineralization, Upper Katanga, Dem. Rep. Congo. Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement, 3, 104-114.
  25. J. Proctor, L. A. Bruijnzeel & A. J. M. BAKER (1999). What causes the vegetation types on Mount Bloomfield, a coastal tropical mountain of the western Philippines? Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters, 8, 347-354.
  26. J. Proctor, A. J. M. BAKER, M. M. J. van Balgooy, L. A. Bruijnzeel, S. H. Jones & D. A. Madulid (2000). Mount Bloomfield, Palawan, Philippines: forests on greywacke and serpentinized peridotite. Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 57, 121-139.
  27. S. N. Whiting, J. R. Leake, S. P. McGrath & A. J. M. BAKER (2000). Positive responses to Zn and Cd by the roots of the Zn and Cd hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens. New Phytologist, 145, 199-210.
  28. Y. M. Luo, P. Christie & A. J. M.BAKER (2000). Soil solution Zn and pH dynamics in non-rhizosphere soil and in the rhizosphere of Thlaspi caerulescens grown in Zn/Cd-contaminated soil. Chemosphere, 41, 161-164.
  29. G. M. Tordoff, A. J. M. BAKER & A. J. Willis (2000). Current approaches to the revegetation and reclamation of metalliferous mine wastes. Chemosphere, 41, 219-228.
  30. Z. H. Ye, J. W. C. Wong, M. H. Wong, A. J. M. BAKER, W. S. Shu & C. Y. Lan. (2000). Revegetation of Pb/Zn mine tailings: field trials to compare different waste materials and plant species. Restoration Ecology, 8, 87-92.
  31. Y. S. M. Ghaderian, A. J. E. Lyon & A. J. M. BAKER (2000). Seedling mortality of metal hyperaccumulator plants resulting from damping off by Pythium spp. New Phytologist, 146, 219-224.
  32. J. Proctor, A. J. M. BAKER, L. A. Bruijnzeel, M. M. J. van Balgooy, G. M. Fairweather & D. A. Madulid (2000). Foliar chemistry and leaf herbivory on Mount Bloomfield, Palawan, Philippines. Botanical Journal of Scotland, 52, 79-89.
  33. J. J. Hutchinson, S. D. Young, S. P. McGrath, H. M. West, C. R. Black & A. J. M. BAKER (2000). Determining uptake of 'non-labile' soil cadmium by Thlaspi caerulescens using isotopic dilution. New Phytologist, 146, 453-460.
  34. L. C. Batty, A. J. M. BAKER, B. D. Wheeler & C. D. Curtis (2000). The effect of pH and plaque on the uptake of Cu and Mn by Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin ex Steudel. Annals of Botany, 86, 647-653.
  35. C. Gonnelli, S. Marsili-Libelli, A. J. M. BAKER & R. Gabbrielli (2000). Assessing plant phytoremediation potential through mathematical modelling. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 2, 343-351.
  36. B. Leteinturier, A. J. M. BAKER, L. Bock, J. Matera & F. Malaisse (2001). Copper and vegetation at the Kansanshi Hill (Zambia) copper mine. Belgian Journal of Botany, 134, 41-50.
  37. S. N. Whiting, J. R. Leake, S. P. McGrath & A. J. M. BAKER. (2001). Hyperaccumulation of Zn by Thlaspi caerulescens can ameliorate Zn toxicity in the rhizosphere of cocropped Thlaspi arvense. Environmental Science & Technology, 35, 3237-3241.
  38. S. N. Whiting, J. R. Leake, S. P. McGrath & A. J. M. BAKER (2001). Zinc accumulation by Thlaspi caerulescens from soils with different Zn availability: a pot study. Plant and Soil, 236, 11-18.
  39. M. R. Broadley, N. J. Willey, J. C. Wilkins, A. J. M. BAKER, A. Mead & P. J. White (2001). Phylogenetic variation in heavy metal accumulation in angiosperms. New Phytologist, 152, 9-27.
  40. S. N. Whiting, J. R. Leake, S. P. McGrath & A. J. M. BAKER. (2001). Assessment of zinc mobilization in the rhizosphere of Thlaspi caerulescens by bioassay with non-accumulator plants and soil extraction. Plant and Soil 237, 147-156.
  41. D. van der Lelie, J.-P. Schwitzguébel, D. J. Glass, J. Vangronsveld & A. J. M. BAKER (2001). Assessing phytoremediation progress in the United States and Europe. Environmental Science & Technology 35, 446-452.
  42. J. S. Angle, R. L. Chaney, A. J. M. BAKER, Y. Li, R. Reeves, V. Volk, R. Roseberg, E. Brewer, S. Burke & J. Nelkin (2001). Developing commercial phytoextraction technologies: practical considerations. South African Journal of Science, 97, 619-623.
  43. P. J. White, S. N. Whiting, A. J. M. BAKER & M. R. Broadley (2002). Does zinc move apoplastically to the xylem in roots of Thlaspi caerulescens? New Phytologist, 153, 199-211
  44. S. N. Whiting, R. D. Reeves & A. J. M BAKER (2002). Conserving biodiversity: mining, metallophytes and land reclamation: conservation of biodiversity. Mining Environmental Management, 10 (2), 11-16.
  45. L. C. Batty, A. J. M. BAKER & B. D. Wheeler (2002). Aluminium and phosphate uptake by Phragmites australis: the role of Fe, Mn and Al root plaques. Annals of Botany, 89, 443-449.
  46. A. J. M. BAKER & S. N. Whiting (2002). In search of the Holy Grail Ð a further step in understanding metal hyperaccumulation? New Phytologist, 155, 1-4.
  47. J.-P. Schwitzgübel, D. van der Lelie, A. J. M., BAKER, D. J. Glass & J. Vangronsveld (2002). Phytoremediation: European and American trends, successes, obstacles and needs. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 2, 91-99.
  48. Z. H. Ye, A. J. M. BAKER, M. H. Wong & A. J. Willis (2003). Copper tolerance, uptake and accumulation by Phragmites australis. Chemosphere, 50, 795-800.
  49. X. J., Jiang, Y. M. Luo, Q. G. Zhao, A. J. M. BAKER, P. Christie & M. H. Wong (2003). Soil Cd availability to Indian mustard and environmental risk following EDTA addition to Cd-contaminated soil. Chemosphere, 50, 813-818.
  50. Y-M. Li, R. Chaney, E. Brewer, R. Roseberg, J. S. Angle, A. BAKER, R. Reeves & J. Nelkin (2003). Development of a technology for commercial phytoextraction of nickel: economic and technical considerations. In: Advances in Phytoremediation, Ed. by A. J. M. Baker, D. van der Lelie, J. Vangronsveld & F. J. Zhao, Plant and Soil, 249, 107-115.
  51. S. N. Whiting, P. M. Neumann & A. J. M. BAKER (2003). Nickel and zinc hyperaccumulation by Alyssum murale and Thlaspi caerulescens (Brassicaceae) do not enhance survival and whole-plant growth under drought stress. Plant, Cell and Environment, 26, 351-360.
  52. P. Hoffmann, A. J. M. BAKER, D. A. Madulid & J. Proctor (2003) Phyllanthus balgooyi (Euphorbiaceae s.l.), a new nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Palawan and Sabah. Blumea (in press).
  53. L. R. Peterson, V. Trivett, A. J. M. BAKER & A. J. Pollard (2003). Spread of metals through an invertebrate food chain as influenced by a plant that hyperaccumulates nickel. Chemoecology (accepted).
  54. S. N. Whiting, D. Richards & A. J. M. BAKER (2003). Plants with mettle – growing the hard way. Materials World April 2003, 10-12.
  55. P. Hoffmann, A. J. M. BAKER, D. A. Madulid & J. Proctor (2003) Phyllanthus balgooyi (Euphorbiaceae s.l.), a new nickel-hyperaccumulating species from Palawan and Sabah. Blumea, 48, 193-199.
  56. A. Mengoni, A. J. M. BAKER, M. Bazzicalupo, R. D. Reeves, N. Adiguzel, E. Chianni, F. Galardi, R. Gabbrielli & C. Gonnelli (2003). Evolutionary dynamics of nickel hyperaccumulation in Alyssum revealed by ITS nrDNA analysis. New Phytologist, 159, 691-699.
  57. L. R. Peterson, V. Trivett, A. J. M. BAKER, C. Aguiar & A. J. Pollard (2003). Spread of metals through an invertebrate food chain as influenced by a plant that hyperaccumulates nickel. Chemoecology, 13, 103-108.
  58. N. A. Linacre, S. N. Whiting, A. J. M. BAKER, J. S. Angle & P. K. Ades (2003). Transgenics and phytoremediation: the need for an integrated risk assessment, management, and communication strategy. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 5, 181-185.
  59. J. S. Angle, A. J. M. BAKER, S. N. Whiting & R. L. Chaney (2003). Soil moisture effects on uptake of heavy metals by Thlaspi, Alyssum and Berkheya. Plant and Soil (in press).
  60. N. P. Bhatia, I. Orlic, R. Siegele, N. Ashwath, A. J. M. BAKER & K. Walsh (2003). Elemental mapping using PIXE shows the main pathway of nickel movement is principally symplastic within the fruit of the hyperaccumulator Stackhousia tryonii. New Phytologist 160 (in press, December 2003).
  61. S. N. Whiting, R. D. Reeves, D. Richards, M. S. Johnson, J. A. Cooke, F. Malaisse, A. Paton, J. A. C. Smith, J. S. Angle, R. L. Chaney, R. Ginocchio, T. JaffrŽ, R. Johns, T. McIntyre, O. W. Purvis, D. E. Salt, H. Schat, F. J. Zhao & A. J. M. BAKER (2004). Research priorities for conservation of metallophytes and their potential for restoration and site remediation. Restoration Ecology (in press, March 2004).