A Plant Found All Over The World Has The Potential To Help Fight Water Pollution

Could this wonder moss be the key to ending water pollution?

Pollution is a global problem that affects everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink. The efforts to reverse the effects of environmental pollution seem to be coming from everywhere — whether it be startups, nonprofits, scientists, corporations or those among us who are environmentally conscious. There is also another unexpected ally: Mother Nature herself.

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There have been recent findings of nature simply evolving to adapt to the changes in the environment, such as the discovery of plastic-eating bacteria. Now, as reported by Upworthy, scientists have discovered an arsenic-absorbing moss that could be a boon in the battle against water pollution.

Warnstarfia fluitans, more commonly known as a floating hook moss, is a moss known to grow throughout the world. In the U.S., it's mostly found in the Great Lakes region. It can also be found in northern Sweden, which is where scientists discovered that moss' surprising ability to absorb arsenic. Researchers from the University of Stockholm observed the plant in waters contaminated from years of iron mining in the area, with arsenopyrites from the process leaching arsenic into the water supply.

At such high contamination levels, most plant life wouldn't be able to survive in the conditions, so the researchers decided to study the tenacious plant. What they discovered was that the moss actually thrived in arsenic-contaminated water due to its ability to act as a filer for the toxic substance. In fact, in tests performed by the researchers, it was able to filter 82 percent of arsenic from contaminated water in less than an hour. 

The findings have big implications for combating water pollution. As noted by The Guardian, plants with purifying capabilities have been used to reduce the amount of pollution in the environment, with some companies even incorporating them to filter air pollution in urban areas. There is hope that the moss can be introduced to bodies of water similarly affected by arsenic — especially since the moss is found all over the world and runs little risk of becoming an invasive species.

Developments such as this give hope in the ongoing effort to reverse the damage that global pollution has caused. 

Cover image via  Africa Studio / Shutterstock.

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