The use of biological agents, such as bacteria, fungi, or green plants, to remove or neutralize contaminants, as in polluted soil or water. Bacteria and fungi generally work by breaking down contaminants such as petroleum into less harmful substances. Plants can be used to aerate polluted soil and stimulate microbial action. They can also absorb contaminants such as salts and metals into their tissues, which are then harvested and disposed of. ◇ The use of green plants to decontaminate polluted soil or water is called phytoremediation.