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Bioaccumulation dynamics of arsenate at the base of aquatic food webs

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Lopez, A.R., D.R. Hesterberg, D.H. Funk, and D.B. Buchwalter. 2016. Environmental Science & Technology 50(12):6556–6564.



Periphyton is an important food source at the base of freshwater ecosystems that tends to bioconcentrate trace elements making them trophically available. The potential for arsenic–a trace element of particular concern due to its widespread occurrence, toxicity, and carcinogenicity–to bioconcentrate in periphyton and thus be available to benthic grazers is less well characterized. To better understand arsenate bioaccumulation dynamics in lotic food webs, we used a radiotracer approach to characterize accumulation in periphyton and subsequent trophic transfer to benthic grazers. Periphyton bioconcentrated As between 3,200–9,700-fold (dry weight) over 8 days without reaching steady state, suggesting that periphyton is a major sink for arsenate. However, As-enriched periphyton as a food source for the mayfly Neocloeon triangulifer resulted in negligible As accumulation in a full lifecycle exposure. Additional studies estimate dietary assimilation efficiency in several primary consumers ranging from 22% in the mayfly N. triangulifer to 75% in the mayfly Isonychia sp. X-ray fluorescence mapping revealed that As was predominantly associated with iron oxides in periphyton. We speculate that As adsorption to Fe in periphyton may play a role in reducing dietary bioavailability. Together, these results suggest that trophic movement of As in lotic food webs is relatively low, though species differences in bioaccumulation patterns are important.