Recently, the potentials of bamboo are being realized more than ever – not only as alternate sources of livelihood but also in nationwide greening projects. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been promoting the use of bamboo for its Enhanced National Greening Program. Hence, the agency has allocated 16,687 hectares for planting bamboo this year. Later, Manila Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso sought technical consultations with the DENR-NCR and ERDB technical staff regarding the importance of bamboo plants. Accordingly, Mayor Domagoso wanted to utilize bamboo for the city’s urban greening projects. (Read: ERDB-THWRDEC meets with Mayor “Isko” Domagoso for greening the City of Manila)

Bamboo’s potentials and benefits for the environment are continually being recognized. Besides, more environment-friendly technologies such as phytoremediation are being used to address concerns such as air, soil, and water pollution in recent times. There have been studies that showed bamboo can be used as a phytoremediator (Chua et al 2019). Thus, it would be imperative to discuss the potentials and characteristics of bamboo that would make it appropriate for phytoremediation.


What is bamboo?

Bamboo is described as one of the fastest-growing plants in the world (Cuddeford 2007). Belonging to the grass family (Gramineae or Poaceae), bamboos are characterized as having “hollow culms, complex rhizome and branch systems, petiolate leaf blades, and prominent sheathing organs” (Roxas 2012). There are over 70 species of bamboo identified that can grow among forest and river systems in the Philippines (Virtucio et al 2007; Roxas 2012 as cited by Chua et al 2019). (Read: Handbook on Erect Bamboo Species Found in the Philippines)

Kawayang Tinik (Bambusa blumeana) (left) and Kawayan kiling (Bambusa vulgaris Schrad) (right)

Accordingly, bamboos are capable of adapting to different types of environments (Rojo et al 2000; Roxas 2012 as cited by Chua et al 2019). Also, bamboo is relatively easier to cultivate and maintain. Along with its potential for hyperaccumulating toxic metals from the soil, it makes the plants appropriate for use in phytoremediation (Chua et al 2019).

Anos (Schizostachyum lima) (left) and Buho (Schizostachyum lumampao) (right)


What is Phytoremediation?

Phytoremediation is a technology that utilizes living plants to help clean up soil, air, and water of hazardous contaminants such as heavy metals (i.e. arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury). It is a naturally occurring process. At the same time, it helps in beautifying the surroundings of an area especially a polluted waterway (Salanguit 2019). Phytoremediation is relatively more cost-effective compared to other remediation options available. It does not require high capital in equipment (Wang et al 2002 as cited by Chua et al 2019). (Read: Phytoremediation: An Eco-Friendly Technology)

Relative to phytoremediation studies, the Toxic and Hazardous Wastes Research, Development and Extension Center (THWRDEC) has conducted a study titled “Phytoremediation Schemes for Polluted Waterways in Urban Areas” from 2015 to 2017. It introduced a phytoremediation scheme referred to as the “floating garden” that was piloted in several polluted waterways in Las Pinas City, Paranaque City, and Meycauayan City in Bulacan province. Plant species included in the setup were Bandera Espanola, Pennywort, Water lettuce, Vetiver grass, Water hyacinth, and Marian plants. (Read: A Garden with Benefits)


Potentials of bamboo for phytoremediation

To date, some bamboo species are included in several phytoremediation efforts around the country (Go et al 2019; Chua et al 2019). Some of these studies looked into the potential of several bamboo species such as giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper), bayog (Bambusa merilliana), and kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana) in the uptake of heavy metals (Go et al 2019; Chua et al 2019). One of these studies had shown that the giant bamboo has potential for use as a hyperaccumulator for heavy metals that may help in cleaning up rivers in the country (Chua et al 2019). There are also some phytoremediation studies in other countries that highlighted the potentials of bamboo in absorbing pollutants in the air, soil, or water (Morina et al 2013; Were et al 2017; Emamverdian 2018; Bian et al 2019).


Screening of bamboo species for heavy metal uptake in the soil

Recently, the Research Center has completed a study titled, “Screening of Selected Bamboo Species Capable to Uptake Heavy Metal Pollutants from the Soil”. Six local bamboo species were utilized to look at the planted bamboo species’ absorption rate of heavy metals in the soil and their growth performance and survival rates. These included kawayan tinik, buho (Schizostachyum lumampao), kawayan kiling (Bambusa vulgaris), anos (Schizostachyum lima), giant bamboo, and bayog.

Study Leader/Forester Rey Abadiano measures the height of the bamboo species

Results of the study revealed that the local bamboo species can absorb and accumulate certain amounts of heavy metal pollutants from the soil. Said species of bamboos can also survive and tolerate heavy metals from the contaminated soil such as lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), and mercury (Hg). Moreover, the study showed that kawayan kiling and buho had the highest survival rate and tolerance to the said heavy metal contaminants in general. The analysis of bamboo tissues also reflected that kawayan tinik species samples accumulated the highest amount of lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) in its tissues. On the other hand, anos species samples had the highest amount of cadmium (Cd) while buho accumulated the highest amount of chromium (Cr).


Way Forward

As discussed, the results of the study showed that bamboo has the potentials for addressing environmental concerns such as pollution caused by heavy metals. More research studies should be undertaken along this line. With the number of native bamboo species available in the country, it could be advantageous to utilize them for rehabilitation projects. Moreover, local government, plant growers, and other industries can support the continued cultivation and growth of these species. / Jonathan Alexander DJ. Galang, CRERDEC



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Chua J, Banua J, Arcilla, I. Orbecido, A. De Castro, M. Ledesma, N. Deocaris, C. Madrazo, C. Belo, L. 2019. Phytoremediation potential and copper uptake kinetics of Philippine bamboo species in copper contaminated substrate. Heliyon. 5. e02440. 10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e02440.

Cuddeford V. 2007. Fact Sheet on Bamboo. Farm Radio International.

Emamverdian A,Ding Y, and Xie Y.2018. Phytoremediation potential of bamboo plant in China. Ecology, Environment and Conservation. 24 (1): 2018; pp. (530-539).

Go JL, Madrazo C, Orbecido A, De Castro ME, and Belo L. 2019. Copper uptake potential of Philippine giant bamboo (Dendrocalamus asper) under varied initial copper concentration, water hardness and pH. MATEC Web of Conferences.

Morina F, Jovanovic L, Vidovic M, Sužnjević D, Tripkovic D, Komic SM, Srekovic T, and Veljovic-Jovanovic L. 2013. Antioxidative status and acclimatization capacity of bamboo – Potential use for air quality improvement in urban areas. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin. Volume 22 – No 6. 2013.

Roxas CA. 2012. Handbook on Erect Bamboo Species Found in the Philippines. Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, College, Laguna.

Salanguit TS. 2019. Floating Garden…A Phytoremediation scheme in
polluted waterways in urban areas. Unpublished Powerpoint Presentation. Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau – Toxic and Hazardous Wastes Research Development and Extension Center.

Vera-Ruiz ED.DENR to cover 16,867 hectares of land with bamboo trees. News. Manila Bulletin – The Nation’s Leading Newspaper. 2020 Sep 16 [accessed 2020 Nov 21].

Were F, Wafula G, and Wairungu S. 2017. Phytoremediation Using Bamboo to Reduce the Risk of Chromium Exposure from a Contaminated Tannery Site in Kenya. Journal of Health Pollution.
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