Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation

The main difference between bioremediation and phytoremediation is that the bioremediation is the use of living organisms either to degrade, detoxify, transform, immobilize or stabilize environmental contaminants whereas the phytoremediation is the use of plants removal of contaminants. Furthermore, some of the strategies of bioremediation are the usage of GMOs, indigenous microorganisms, biostimulation, bioaugmentation, and phytoremediation. 

Bioremediation and phytoremediation are two methods used to remove contaminants from the environment. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. What is Bioremediation
     – Definition, Types, Importance
2. What is Phytoremediation
     – Definition, Facts, Advantages
3. What are the Similarities Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Bioremediation, Microbes, Phytoremediation, Plants, removal of Pollutants

Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation - Comparison Summary

What is Bioremediation 

Bioremediation is an important area of biotechnology, involving in the removal of pollutants, contaminants as well as toxins either from the air, water or soil with the use of living organisms such as plants and microbes. On that account, it can be used to clear environmental problems such as contaminated groundwater or even to clear oil spills. The living organisms in this process utilize the pollutant, contaminant or the toxin as their source of food. They break down them into carbon dioxide and water. In addition, the conditions such as temperature have to be optimal in order to increase the efficiency of the process. Also, the addition of amendments such as molasses or vegetable oil can provide the optimum conditions for the growth of microbes.  

Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation_Figure 1

Figure 1: In-Situ Bioremediation

The process can be performed in-situ or ex-situ and the ex-situ bioremediation can be used if the environmental conditions are not favorable to the growth of microbes. Moreover, the process may take a few to several months to complete. Since it is a natural process, bioremediation cause less damage to the ecosystem when compared to the other methods of clearing pollutants. Some of the bioremediation methods are bioaugmentation, rhizofiltration, biostimulation, phytoremediation, mycoremediation, composting, etc.

What is Phytoremediation 

Phytoremediation is a type of bioremediation, which directly uses green plants for the removal or degradation of pollutants. It can be used to clear the soil, sediments, sludge as well as the surface and groundwater. Plants have equipped with various absorption capabilities, transport mechanisms, and metabolic reactions through which they take nutrients into the plant and use them for the growth of the plant. Hence, phytoremediation involves in the growth of plants in a contaminated matrix through the entire growth period. The uptake through the root system of the plant decreases the concentration of the contaminant in the matrix. In addition, the organic and inorganic compounds secreted by the root system encourage the growth of various forms of bacteria that in turns can involve in the removal of contaminants. The process of phytoremediation includes phytoextraction, phytodegradation, phytovolatilization, and phytostabilization.  

Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation_Figure 2

Figure 2: Phytoremediation

Phytoremediation can be considered as an in-situ method of bioremediation. The main advantage of phytoremediation is the low cost. Apart from that, it is less labor-intensive as well. On the other hand, it is more ecologically-friendly.  

Similarities Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation 

  • Bioremediation and phytoremediation are two types of mechanisms used in the removal of contaminants from the ecosystems. 
  • Both involve in the degradation, transform, detoxify or immobilization of the pollutants. 

Difference Between Bioremediation and Phytoremediation 


Bioremediation refers to the use of either naturally occurring or deliberately introduced microorganisms to consume and break down environmental pollutants, in order to clean a polluted site while phytoremediation refers to a process of decontaminating soil or water by using plants and trees to absorb or break down pollutants. The difference between bioremediation and phytoremediation is self explanatory from this definition. 


Further to that, bioremediation is the method of removing contaminants from ecosystems while phytoremediation is a type of bioremediation. 

Type of Living Organisms Used 

Bioremediation mainly uses microbes while phytoremediation depends on plants. This is the main difference between bioremediation and phytoremediation.

In-Situ or Ex-Situ 

Another difference between bioremediation and phytoremediation is that the bioremediation can be either in situ or ex situ while phytoremediation is mainly an in-situ process. 


Bioremediation is more ecologically-friendly while phytoremediation is cost friendly. 


Bioremediation is a method of removing pollutants or contaminants from ecosystems with the help of microbes or plants. Phytoremediation is a type of bioremediation that removes contaminants with the use of plants. Bioremediation is an ecologically-friendly method while phytoremediation is cheaper. The main difference between bioremediation and phytoremediation is the type of living organisms used in each process. 


1. Picardo, Elvis. “Bioremediation.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 10 July 2018, Available Here
2. “Phytoremediation: An Environmentally Sound Technology for Pollution Prevention, Control and Redmediation.” What Is Phytoremediation, United Nations Environment Programme, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “In Situ Bioremediation” By Hoodlind – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia  
2. “Phytoremediation Process” By Arulnangai & Xavier Dengra – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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