The Forestry Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-FORIG) has identified three indigenous tree species with high potentials of phytoremediation and suitable for the reclamation of degraded lands by illegal miners.
This follows a research conducted by the Institute to evaluate the phytoremediation potential of indigenous tree species as part of efforts to address the environmental challenges of the country.
Small-scale artisanal mining is an important source of employment, income and livelihoods for millions of people.
In Ghana, about one million people are directly involved with 4.5 million indirectly benefiting but the adverse effect on the environment is becoming alarming.
It is against this background that a team of researchers at FORIG set out to determine the growth rates of selected indigenous tree species on mined soil and also evaluate the phytoremediation potential of the selected species.
Phytoremediation is the use of plants for the removal or stabilisation of areas contaminated with heavy metals.
The research had Dr Akwasi Duah-Gyamfi as the lead researcher with Dr (Mrs) Lucy Amissah, J.K. Korang, Dr R.T. Guuroh, and Mr Kwaku Osei Agyemang as team members.
At a stakeholders' seminar to share the research findings, Dr Duah-Gyamfi said the mining sector accounted for about 14.9 of Ghana's Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and also contributed about 30 per cent annual gold production since 2012.
He said small-scale mining was a major environmental concern in Ghana with about 40,000 – 50,000 hectares degraded through illegal mining activities, thereby affecting ecosystems, water bodies and agricultural lands.
He disclosed that the team chose four indigenous species; Milicia exelsa, Nauclea diderrichii, Terminallia superba, and Tieghemella heckellii, all of which showed retarded growth in mined soils.
Dr Duah-Gyamfi, however, explained that with the exception of the Tieghemella heckellii all the remaining three species showed a remarkable potential to absorb cadmium and lead.
He announced the intention of FORIG to screen more species going forward, on the field instead of the laboratory and stressed the need for funding to enable the Institute to widen the scope of the research to complement national efforts at reclaiming degraded lands.
Prof Daniel A. Ofori, the Director of FORIG, said it was imperative as a country to take steps to reclaim the degraded lands not only to protect water bodies and ensure food security but also to fight climate change.
He called for collaboration among stakeholders to put together resources to cover more species for the collective benefit of all stakeholders.