The transfer of trace metals in the soil-plant-arthropod system

Tibbett, Mark; Green, Iain; Rate, Andrew; De Oliveira, Vinícius H.; Whitaker, Jeanette ORCID: 2021 The transfer of trace metals in the soil-plant-arthropod system. Science of the Total Environment, 779, 146260. 29, pp.

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Essential and non-essential trace metals are capable of causing toxicity to organisms above a threshold concentration. Extensive research has assessed the behaviour of trace metals in biological and ecological systems, but has typically focused on single organisms within a trophic level and not on multi-trophic transfer through terrestrial food chains. This reinforces the notion of metal toxicity as a closed system, failing to consider one trophic level as a pollution source to another; therefore, obscuring the full extent of ecosystem effects. Given the relatively few studies on trophic transfer of metals, this review has taken a compartment-based approach, where transfer of metals through trophic pathways is considered as a series of linked compartments (soil-plant-arthropod herbivore-arthropod predator). In particular, we consider the mechanisms by which trace metals are taken up by organisms, the forms and transformations that can occur within the organism and the consequences for trace metal availability to the next trophic level. The review focuses on four of the most prevalent metal cations in soil which are labile in terrestrial food chains: Cd, Cu, Zn and Ni. Current knowledge of the processes and mechanisms by which these metals are transformed and moved within and between trophic levels in the soil-plant-arthropod system are evaluated. We demonstrate that the key factors controlling the transfer of trace metals through the soil-plant-arthropod system are the form and location in which the metal occurs in the lower trophic level and the physiological mechanisms of each organism in regulating uptake, transformation, detoxification and transfer. The magnitude of transfer varies considerably depending on the trace metal concerned, as does its toxicity, and we conclude that biomagnification is not a general property of plant-arthropod and arthropod-arthropod systems. To deliver a more holistic assessment of ecosystem toxicity, integrated studies across ecosystem compartments are needed to identify critical pathways that can result in secondary toxicity across terrestrial food-chains.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0048-9697
Additional Keywords: trace metals, trophic transfer, ecotoxicology, mycorrhiza, food chain, cadmium, copper, zinc, nickel
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 22 Mar 2021 17:07 +0 (UTC)

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