Abstract Root induced changes are deemed to have an important role in the success of remediation techniques in contaminated soils. Here, the effects of two nano-particles [SiO2 and zeolite] with an application rate of 200mgkg−1, and two bacteria [Bacillus safensis FO-036b(T) and Pseudomonas fluorescens p.f.169] in the rhizosphere of sunflower on Zn and Pb dynamics were studied in greenhouse conditions. The treatments reduced the exchangeable Zn (from 13.68% to 30.82%) and Pb (from 10.34% to 25.92%) in the rhizosphere compared to the control. The EC and microbial respiration/population of the rhizosphere and bulk soil had an opposite trend with the exchangeable fraction of Zn and Pb, but dissolved organic carbon followed a similar trend with the more bioavailable fractions. As a result, the accumulation of Pb and Zn in the plant tissues was significantly (p < 0.05) reduced by the application of amendments, which might be due to the shift of the metals to immobile forms induced by the nature of the treatments and changes in the rhizosphere process. The empirical conditions of this research produced the intensification of the rhizosphere process because the findings highlight those changes in the rhizosphere EC, pH and dissolved organic carbon can affect the efficiency of zeolite/SiO2 NPs and bacteria to immobilize Pb and Zn in the soil, depending on the chemical character of the metals and the treatments. Generally, the affinity of the biotic treatment for Pb was more than the abiotic and conversely, the abiotic treatment showed a higher ability to immobilize Zn than the biotic treatment. Highlights Zeolite /SiO2 NPs considerably reduce the available fraction of Zn and Pb than the bacteria. The affinity of the bacteria treatment for Pb is more than the zeolite/SiO2 NPs. Zeolite/SiO2 NPs have a higher ability to immobilize Zn than the bacteria treatment. EC and microbial respiration/population have an opposite trend with the available fraction. The soil DOC follows a similar trend with the more bioavailable fractions of Zn and Pb.
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