- Reviewed by
Kate Kennen and Niall Kirkwood. 2015. London, UK: Taylor & Francis Group. $46.36 paperback. ISBN 978-0-415-81415-7. $16.79 e-book. ISBN 978-1-315-74666-1. 346 pages.
While progressing from a nascent scientific niche to a full-fledged discipline, phytoremediation has been relegated to a research topic capturing the imaginations and creativity of many scientists (myself included). The book Phyto: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design by Kate Kennen and Niall Kirkwood bridges the gap between the now significant body of scientific knowledge and the practice of functional landscape design. In this book, Kennen and Kirkwood, both landscape architects, have undertaken task of summarizing, synthesizing and graphically presenting the variety of plant-based pollution management strategies that have emerged from decades of research. This book is a significant achievement in that it may help bring phytoremediation or, more generally, phytotechnologies, out of the lab and into the field, as was the goal of the research activity all along. Kennan and Krikwood have drawn from the expertise of the "who's-who" of the field including most of the senior scientists who developed the concept decades ago. Summarizing the current state of an entire discipline is never an easy task yet they rise to the challenge and provide a readable, visually pleasing, summary of phytoremediation for scientific and non-scientific audiences alike. This book is very likely to serve as a reference, textbook, and guide for years to come.
Phytoremediation applications have been developed for a range of inorganic to organic pollutants, solids, liquids, and gases, found in soil, air and water, in indoor and outdoor and outdoor environments, from the tropics to the cold regions of the world. With this tremendous variability, the challenge when summarizing the science is to avoid over-simplifications, while still providing usable guidance for applied practitioners. Kennan and Kirkwood achieve this by supplementing the nearly 400 pages of thoroughly referenced text with summarizing graphics and a pictorial icon approach to contaminants and central concepts. The result is a more accessible approach to this complex field, which will enable the transfer out of the lab to non-technical and student audiences and hopefully into the studios of landscape designers.
The book begins with a passionate foreword by Steven Rock of the EPA, who has had his fingers on the pulse of phytoremediation as an application for the management of environmental contamination for many years. Chapter 1 presents the current state of the field and provides the readers insight into the fundamental questions for all applied scientific disciplines: why should we care; and if this is so great, why isn't everyone doing it? Their answers to the questions are full of insight and based on the synthesis of many years of careful consideration by the best minds in the field.
Chapter 2 provides the basis for the original hypothesis from which the phytoremediation emerged, which could be summarized as: the innate capacity for plants to restore damaged environments can be harnessed to manage sites contaminated with toxic substances. As an educator of undergraduate students, I find this chapter on "Fundamentals" to be a fantastic summary and explanation of the central concepts and terminology of the field. Page after page of color graphics draws these physical phenomena out from being scattered across a jargon-laden scientific research articles to visually discernable summaries, which is likely to speak to the practitioner and designer audience targeted by this book.
Chapters 3 and 4 dive into the basic considerations necessary for the design of phytoremediation including pairing plant species selection to classes of contaminants and planting strategies for substrate specific considerations. These chapters are supported by numerous case studies of field-based research projects in a variety of settings for a wide range of contaminants. I am all but certain these [End Page 275] chapters will provide valuable resources for designers looking to impart these pollutant management strategies into landscapes.
Chapter 5 brings together the specific strategies and considerations outlined in the previous chapters to provide guidance on phytoremediation-integrated site design. This is clearly...