Phytoremediation and plant physiology

Adjunct professor
Department of biological sciences - University of Montreal

Botanist and head of research & scientific development department
Montreal Botanical Garden


The studies conducted by our laboratory examine the physiological functioning of plants, and address a variety of environmental issues. In recent years, numerous applied research projects have been conducted in order to explore possible solutions to various environmental problems, while simultaneously contributing to our understanding of plant functioning.

The assimilation of nutrients, contaminants, as well as trace elements are recurring themes studied in our laboratory. For example, we have examined the impact of the use of various types of organic fertilizers (sludge, pig manure, etc.) on plants and the environment; other studies have focused on the presence of heavy metals, whether in organic fertilizer or in soil in the form of contaminants. More recently, studies were undertaken on contaminated soils with organic pollutants (PAH, PCB, etc.). In this context, studies integrate research in genomics and bioinformatics and involved collaborations with researchers from other disciplines. These studies are conducted to better understand the complex interactions between pollutants, soil, plant roots and microorganisms at the rhizosphere level.

Our team has been particularly interested in short rotation coppice of willows (Salix). Our aim has been to maximize the potential of the unique characteristics of these species: rapid growth and root proliferation, and exceptional aptitude for vegetative propagation. We are interested by the operational feasibility of SRC with willows in Eastern Canada by improving cultivation techniques and selecting new varieties.

Keywords: Ecophysiology of woody species • Biomass yield of woody crop cultivated for bioenergy and environment applications • Nutrition and assimilation under various environmental conditions • Restoration of contaminated sites •  Phytoremediation • Decontamination of municipal sludge 


Research professionals
Patrick Benoist

Research assistants
Noémie Legault

Research professionnals
Alex Licinio

Postdoctoral fellows
Adrian Paul

Ph.D. students
Noël Fagoaga, co-supervision for Frédéric Pitre
Béatrice Gervais-Bergeron, co-supervision with Pierre-Luc Chagnon
Geoffroy Renaud-Grignon, co-supervision with Joan Laur
Oana Khintirian-Suteu, co-supervision with Emanuel Licha
Eszter Sas, co-supervision with Frédéric Pitre and Simon Barnabé (UQTR)

M.Sc. students
Marie-Pierre Bastien-Thibault, co-supervision with Yves Comeau
Andréanne Beauchemin-Nadeau, co-supervision with Stéphanie Pellerin
Roberta D'Camp
Camille Desrosiers
Jérôme Gingras-Debien
Alexandre Michaud, co-supervision with Sébastien Boquel (Cérom)


Founding member of the Société québécoise de phytotechnologie

Board member of the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network

Peer-reviewed publications (selection)


  • Smedbol, É., M.P. Gomes, S. Paquet, M. Labrecque, L. Lepage, M. Lucotte et P. Juneau. 2018. Effects of low concentrations of glyphosate-based herbicide factor 540® on an agricultural stream freshwater phytoplankton community. Chemosphere, 192: 133-141.
  • Beauchamp, S., A. Jerbi, C. Frenette-Dussault, F.E. Pitre et M. Labrecque. 2018. Does the origin of cuttings influence yield and phytoextraction potential of willow in a contaminated soil? Ecological Engineering, 111: 125-133.
  • Gonzalez, E., F.E. Pitre, A.P. Pagé, J. Marleau, W.G. Nissim, M. St-Arnaud, M. Labrecque, S. Joly, E. Yergeau et N.J.B. Brereton. 2018. Trees, fungi and bacteria: tripartite metatranscriptomics of a root microbiome responding to soil contamination. Microbiome, 6 (1): 53.
  • Kou, S., G. Vincent, E. Gonzalez, F.E. Pitre, M. Labrecque et N.J.B. Brereton, 2018. The response of a 16S ribosomal RNA gene fragment amplified community to lead, zinc, and copper pollution in a Shanghai field trial. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9: 366.
  • Pray, T.J., W. Guidi-Nissim, M. St-Arnaud et M. Labrecque. 2018. Investigating the effect of a mixed mycorrhizal inoculum on the productivity of biomass plantation willows grown on marginal farm land. Forest, 9 (4): 185.
  • Yergeau, E., J. Tremblay, S. Joly, M. Labrecque, C. Maynard, F.E. Pitre, M. St-Arnaud et C.W. Greer. 2018. Soil contamination alters the willow root and rhizosphere metatranscriptome and the root–rhizosphere interactome. The ISME Journal, 12: 869-884.


  • Brereton, N.J.B., N. Berthod, B. Lafleur, K. Pedneault, F.E. Pitre, et M. Labrecque. 2017. Extractable phenolic yield variation in five cultivars of mature short rotation coppice willow from four plantations in Quebec. Industrial Crops and Products, 97: 525-535.
  • Courchesne, F., M.-C. Turmel, B. Cloutier-Hurteau, G. Tremblay, L. Munro, J. Masse et M. Labrecque. 2017. Soil trace element changes during a phytoremediation trial with willows in southern Québec, Canada. International journal of phytoremediation, 19 (7): 632-642.
  • Courchesne, F., M.-C.Turmel, B. Cloutier-Hurteau, S. Constantineau, L. Munro et M. Labrecque. 2017. Phytoextraction of soil trace elements by willow during a phytoremediation trial in southern Québec, Canada. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 19 (6): 545-554.
  • Fontana, M., M. Labrecque, A. Collin, et N. Bélanger. 2017. Stomatal distribution patterns change according to leaf development and leaf water status in Salix miyabeana. Plant Growth Regulation, 81 (1): 63-70.
  • Gomes, M.P., S.G. Le Manac’h, L. Hénault-Éthier, M. Labrecque, M. Lucotte, et P. Juneau. 2017. Glyphosatedependent inhibition of photosynthesis in willow. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8: 207.
  • Hénault-Ethier, L., M. Lucotte, M. Moingt, S. Paquet, S. Maccario, É. Smedbol, M.P. Gomes, L. Lepage, P. Juneau et M. Labrecque. 2017. Herbaceous or Salix miyabeanna « SX64 » narrow buffer strips as a means to minimize glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid leaching from row crop fields. Science of the Total Environment, 598: 1177-1186.
  • Lupi, C., G.R. Larocque, A. DesRochers, M. Labrecque, A. Mosseler, J. Major, J. Beaulieu, F. Tremblay, A.M. Gordon, B.R. Thomas, A. Vézina, H. Bouafif, D. Cormier, D. Sidders et R. Krygier. 2017. Biomass from young hardwood stands on marginal lands: Allometric equations and sampling methods. Biomass and Bioenergy, 98: 172-181.
  • Nguyen, T.X.T., M. Amyot et M. Labrecque. 2017. Differential effects of plant root systems on nickel, copper and silver bioavailability in contaminated soil. Chemosphere, 168: 131-138.
  • Labrecque, M. et S.L. Lajeunesse. 2017. Guide de production de saules en culture intensive sur courtes rotations. Publication du Réseau des Plantes Bio-industrielles du Québec, Montréal: 29 pages.
  • Desjardins, D., N.J.B. Brereton, L. Marchand, J. Brisson, F.E. Pitre et M. Labrecque. 2017. Complementarity of three distinctive phytoremediation crops for multiple-trace element contaminated soil. The Science of the Total Environment, 610-611: 1428-1438.
  • Fontana, M., M. Labrecque, C. Messier, F. Courchesne et N. Bélanger. 2017. Quantifying the effects of soil and climate on aboveground biomass production of Salix miyabeana SX67 in Quebec. New Forests, 48 (6): 817-835.
  • Hénault-Ethier, L., M. Larocque, R. Perron, N. Wiseman et M. Labrecque. 2017. Hydrological heterogeneity in agricultural riparian buffer strips. Journal of Hydrology, 546: 276-288.
  • Hénault-Ethier, L., M.P. Gomes, M. Lucotte, É. Smedbol, S. Maccario, L. Lepage, P. Juneau et M. Labrecque. 2017. High yields of riparian buffer strips planted with Salix miyabena ‘SX64’ along field crops in Québec, Canada. Biomass and Bioenergy, 105: 219-229.
  • Yanitch, A., N.J. Brereton, E. Gonzalez, M. Labrecque, S. Joly et F.E. Pitre. 2017. Transcriptomic response of purple willow (Salix purpurea) to arsenic stress. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8: 1115.


  • Lafleur, B., O. Lalonde et M. Labrecque. 2016. First-rotation performance of five short-rotation willow cultivars on different soil types and along a large climate gradient. BioEnergy Research, 10: 158-166.
  • Lafleur, B., S. Sauvé, S.V. Duy et M. Labrecque. 2016. Phytoremediation of groundwater contaminated with pesticides using short-rotation willow crops: a case study of an apple orchard. International journal of phytoremediation, 18 (11): 1128-1135.
  • Fontana, M., B. Lafleur, M. Labrecque, F. Courchesne, et N. Bélanger. 2016. Maximum annual potential yields of Salix miyabeana SX67 in southern Quebec and effects of coppicing and stool age. BioEnergy Research, 9 (4): 1109-1125.
  • Desjardins, D., F.E. Pitre, W. Guidi-Nissim et M. Labrecque. 2016. Differential uptake of silver, copper and zinc suggests complementary species-specific phytoextraction potential. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 18 (6): 598-604.
  • Fabio, E.S., T.A. Volk, R.O. Miller, M.J. Serapiglia, H.G. Gauch, K.C.J. Van Rees, R.D. Hangs, B.Y. Amichev, Y.A. Kuzovkina, M. Labrecque, G.A. Johnson, R.G. Ewy, G.J. Kling et L.B. Smart. 2016. Genotype by environment interactions analysis of North American shrub willow yield trials confirms superior performance of triploid hybrids. GCB Bioenergy, 9: 445-459.
  • Brereton, N.J., E. Gonzalez, J. Marleau, W. Guidi Nissim, M. Labrecque, S. Joly, et F.E. Pitre. 2016. Comparative transcriptomic approaches exploring contamination stress tolerance in Salix sp. reveal the Importance for a metaorganismal de novo assembly approach for nonmodel plants. Plant physiology, 171 (1) : 3-24.
  • Gomes, M.P., S.G. Le Manach, M. Moingt, E. Smedbol, S. Paquet, M. Labrecque, M. Lucotte et P. Juneau. 2016. Impact of phosphate on glyphosate uptake and toxicity in willow. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 304 : 269-279.
  • Guidi Nissim, W. et M. Labrecque. 2016. Planting microcuttings : An innovative method for establishing a willow vegetation cover. Ecological Engineering, 91 : 472-476.


  • Almeida-Rodríguez, A.M., M.P. Gómes, A. Loubert-Hudon, S. Joly et M. Labrecque. 2015. Symbiotic association between Salix purpurea and Rhizophagus irregularis : modulation of plant responses under copper stress. Tree physiology, tpv119 : 14 pages.
  • Berthod, N., N.J. Brereton, F.E. Pitre, et M. Labrecque. 2015. Five willow varieties cultivated across diverse field environments reveal stem density variation associated with high tension wood abundance. Frontiers in plant science, 6 : 11 pages (948).
  • Desjardins, D., F.E. Pitre, W. Guidi Nissim et M. Labrecque. 2015. Differential uptake of silver, copper and zinc suggests complementary species-specific phytoextraction potential. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 18 (6) : 598-604.
  • Gomes, M.P., S. Maccario, M. Lucotte, M. Labrecque et P. Juneau. 2015. Consequences of phosphate application on glyphosate uptake by roots : Impacts for environmental management practices. Science of The Total Environment, 537 : 115-119.
  • Gomes, M.P., S.G. Le Manach, S. Maccario, M. Labrecque, M. Lucotte et P. Juneau. 2015. Differential effects of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) on photosynthesis and chlorophyll metabolism in willow plants. Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology, 130 : 65-70.
  • Gonzalez, E., N.J. Brereton, J. Marleau, W. Guidi Nissim, M. Labrecque, F.E. Pitre et S. Joly. 2015. Meta-transcriptomics indicates biotic cross-tolerance in willow trees cultivated on petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated soil. BMC plant biology, 15 (246) : 18 pages.
  • Lupi, C., G. Larocque, A. DesRochers, M. Labrecque, A. Mosseler, J. Major, J. Beaulieu, F. Tremblay, A.M. Gordon, B.R. Thomas, A. Vézina, H. Bouafif, D. Cormier, D. Sidders, R. Krygier, N. Thevathasan, M. Riopel et B. Ferland- Raymond. 2015. Evaluating sampling designs and deriving biomass equations for young plantations of poplar and willow clones. Biomass and Bioenergy, 83 : 196-205.
  • Grenier, V., F.E. Pitre, W. Guidi Nissim et M. Labrecque. 2015. Genotypic differences explain most of the response of willow cultivars to petroleum-contaminated soil. Trees Structures and Function, 29: 871-881.
  • Lafleur, B., M. Labrecque, A.A. Arnold et N. Bélanger. 2015. Organic carbon accumulation in topsoil following afforestation with willow: emphasis on leaf litter decomposition and soil organic matter quality. Forests, 6 (3): 769-793.
  • Lauron-Moreau, A., F.E. Pitre, G.W. Argus, M. Labrecque et L. Brouillet. 2015. Phylogenetic relationships of american willows (Salix L., Salicaceae). ). PloS One, 10 (4): e0121965.
  • Guidi Nissim, W., S. Hasbroucq, H. Kadri, F.E. Pitre et M. Labrecque. 2015. Potential of selected Canadian plant species for phytoextraction of trace elements from selenium-rich soil contaminated by industrial activity. International journal of phytoremediation, 17 (8) : 745-752.
  • Guidi Nissim, W., A. Jerbi, B, Lafleur, R. Fluet et M. Labrecque. 2015. Willows for the treatment of municipal wastewater: long-term performance under different irrigation rates. Ecological Engineering, 81: 395-404.


  • Guidi Nissim, W., F.E. Pitre, H. Kadri, D. Desjardins and M. Labrecque. 2014. Early Response of willow to increasing silver concentration exposure. International Journal of Phytoremediation 16 (7-8): 660-670.
  • Mosseler, A., J.E. Major et M. Labrecque. 2014. Genetic by environment interactions of two North American Salix species assessed for coppice yield and components of growth on three sites of varying quality. Trees, 28 (5): 1401-1411.
  • Mosseler, A., J.E. Major and M. Labrecque. 2014. Growth and survival of seven native willow species on highly disturbed coal mine sites in eastern Canada. Can. J. For. Res. 44: 340-349.
  • Desjardins, D., W. Guidi Nissim, F. Pitre, A. Naud and M. Labrecque. 2014. Distribution patterns of spontaneous vegetation and pollution at a former decantation basin in southern Québec, Canada. Ecological Engineering, 64, 385–390.
  • Mosseler, A., J.E Major, M. Labrecque and G. R. Larocque. 2014. Allometric relationships in coppice biomass production in two North American willows (Salix spp.) across three different sites. Forest Ecology and Management 340: 190-196.
  • Pedrosa Gomes, M. É. Smedbol, L. Hénault-Ethier, A. Chalifour, M. Labrecque, M. Lucotte and P. Juneau. 2014. Alteration of plant physiology by glyphosate and its by-product aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) – A review. Journal of Experimental Botany. 65 (17): 4691-4703.


  • Larocque, G.R., A. DesRochers, M. Larchevêque, F. Tremblay, J. Beaulieu, A. Mosseler, J. Major, S. Gaussiran, B.R. Thomas, D. Sidders, P. Périnet, J. Kort, M. Labrecque, P. Savoie, S. Masse, O.T. Bouman1, D. Kamelchuk, L. Benomar, T. Mamashita and P. Gagné. 2013. Research on hybrid poplars and willow species for fast-growing tree plantations: its importance for growth and yield, silviculture, policy making and commercial applications. For. Chron. 89 (1): 32-41.
  • Vincent, G. and M. Labrecque. 2013. Der Botanische Garten Montreal – 78 Jahre lang gestaltet nach den Prinzipien. von Henry Teuscher The Montréal Botanical Garden: 78 years of development according to Henry Teuscher’s principles. Englera 30: 109-118.
  • Lauron-Moreau, A., F. E. Pitre, L. Brouillet and M. Labrecque. 2013. Microsatellite Markers of Willow Species and Characterization of 11 Polymorphic Microsatellites for Salix eriocephala (Salicaceae), a Potential Native Species for Biomass Production in Canada. Plants 2013 (2): 203-210.
  • Guidi, W., F. E. Pitre, T.I. Teodorescu and M. Labrecque. 2013. Long term biomass productivity of bioenergy plantations maintained in southern Quebec, Canada. Biomass and Bioenergy 56: 361-369.
  • Park, Y.-I., M. Labrecque and J.M. Lavoie. 2013. Influence of Elevated CO2 and Municipal Wastewater Feed on the Productivity, Morphology, and Chemical Composition of Arthrospira (Spirulina) platensis. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 1(11): 1348-1356.
  • Guidi-Nissim, W., A. Voicu and M. Labrecque. 2013. Willow short-rotation coppice for treatment of polluted groundwater. Ecological Engineering 62 (2014) 102– 114.


  • Lockwell, J., W. Guidi and Labrecque M. 2012. Soil carbon sequestration potential of willows in short-rotation coppice established on abandoned farm lands. Plant and Soil Volume 360 (1): 299-318.
    Guidi Nissim W. et M. Labrecque. 2012 Il salice nel controllo del degrado ambientale: L’esperienza canadese nell’ambito delle fitotecnologie. Sherwood 184: 41-45.
  • Guidi W., Kadri H., Labrecque M. 2012. Establishment techniques to using willow for phytoremediation on a former oil refinery in southern Quebec: achievements and constraints. Chemistry and Ecology 28 (1): 49-64.


  • Fillion, M. J. Brisson, W. Guidi, and M. Labrecque. 2011. Increasing phosphorus removal in willow and poplar vegetation filters using arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Ecological Eng. 37 : 199-205.
  • Guidi, W., T.I. Teodorescu and M. Labrecque. 2011. The use of non-dormant rods as planting material: a new approach to establishing willow for environmental applications. Ecological Engineering 37 (9): 1430-1433.
  • Volk, T.A., L.P. Abrahamson , K.D. Cameron, , P. Castellano, T. Corbin, E. Fabio, G. Johnson, Y. Kuzovskina-Eischen, M. Labrecque, R. Miller, D. Sidders, L.B. Smart, S. Staver, G.R. Tanosz and K. Van Rees. 2011. Yields of willow biomass crops across a range of sites in North America. Aspects of Applied Biology 112: 67.74.
  • Cavanagh, A., M.O. Gasser and M. Labrecque. 2011. Pig slurry as fertilizer on willow plantation. Biomass and Bioenergy Volume 35 (10): 4165-4173.


  • Guidi, W. and M. Labrecque. 2010. Effects of high water supply on growth, water use and nutrient allocation in willow and poplar grown in a one- year pot trial. Water, Air & Soil Pollution 207 :85-101.
  • Bissonnette, L., M. St-Arnaud and M. Labrecque. 2010. Phytoextraction of heavy metals by two Salicaceae clones in symbiosis with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi during the second year of a field trial. Plant and Soil 332:55–67.
  • Pitre, F. T.I. Teodorescu and M. Labrecque. 2010. Brownfield phytoremediation of heavy metals using Brassica and Salix supplemented with EDTA: Results of the first growing season Jour. of Environ. Science and Engi. Vol. 4(9) : 51-59.


  • Fillion, M., J. Brisson, T. I. Teodorescu, S. Sauvé and M. Labrecque. 2009. Performance of Salix viminalis and Populus nigra x P. maximowiczii in short rotation intensive culture under high irrigation. Biomass and Bioenergy 33 (9): 1271-1277.


  • Barraoui, D., M. Labrecque and J.F. Blais. 2008. Decontamination of sludge by the METIX-AC process Part I: Effects on sludge quality and leaching of chemicals. Bioressource Technology 99: 1433-1449.
  • Barraoui, D., M. Labrecque and J.F. Blais. 2008. Decontamination of sludge by the METIX-AC process, Part II: Effects on maize growth and bioaccumulation of metals. Bioresource Tech. 99: 1450-1464.
  • Kuzovkina, Y. A., M. Weih, M. A.s Romero, J. Charles, S. Hurst, I. McIvor,A. Karp, S. Trybush, M. Labrecque, T. I. Teodorescu, N. B. Singh, Y. S. Parmar, L..B. Smart and T. A. Volk. 2008. Salix: Botany and Global Horticulture. Horticultural Reviews 34:447-489.
  • Vujanovic, V. and M. Labrecque. 2008. Potentially pathogenic and biocontrol Ascomycota associated with green wall structures of basket willow (Salix viminalis L.). Biocontrol. 53 (2): 413-426.


  • Labrecque, M. and T.I. Teodorescu. 2006. Biomass production and environmental impact of willow intensive plantations in Quebec, Canada. Proceedings of the 14th European Biomass Conference. Ed. L. Sjunnesson, J.E. Carrasco, P.Helm and A. Grassi. Paris, France, 17-21 October, 2005, pp. 190-193.
  • Sean, S.T., and M. Labrecque. 2006. Use of short-rotation coppice willow clone of Salix viminalis as furnish panel production. Forest products Journal 56 (9): 47-52.


  • Labrecque, M. and T.I. Teodorescu. 2005. Research Note: Preliminary evaluation of a living willow sound barrier along a Highway in Quebec, Canada. Journal of Arboriculture 31 (2): 95-98.
  • Labrecque, M. and T.I. Teodorescu. 2005. Field performance and biomass production of 12 willow and poplars in short-rotation coppice in southern Quebec (Canada). Biomass and Bioenergy 29 (1): 1-9.
  • Roy, S., S. Labelle, P. Mehta, A. Mihoc, C. Masson, R. Leblanc, C. Gallipeau, C. Olsen, S. Delisle, M. Labrecque and C.W. Greer. 2005. Phytoremediation of heavy metal and PAH-contaminated brownfield sites. Plant and Soil 272: 277-290