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ISSN 1995-4255, Contemporary Problems of Ecology, 2010, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 369373. Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2010.

Original Russian Text S.A. Ostroumov, G.M. Kolesov, 2010, published in Sibirskii Ekologicheskii Zhurnal, 2010, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 525531.

The Role of Biodetritus in Accumulation


of Elements in Aquatic Ecosystems
a

S. A. Ostroumova and G. M. Kolesovb

Lomonosov Moscow State University, Department of Biology, Leninskie Gory, Moscow, 119234 Russia
E-mail: ar55@yandex.ru
b
V. I. Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, ul. Kosygina, 19, Moscow, 119991 Russia
AbstractBiodetritus that formed over a 7-month period in microcosms with Viviparus viviparus, Unio
pictorum, and Ceratophyllum demersum contained a number of elements. This is the first study to determine
concentrations of some elements in biodetritus. Neutron activation analysis showed that the elements
concentrations decrease in the following order: Ca > Zn > Ba > Br > Ce > Se > Nd > La > U > Hf > Sb > Th > Sm
> S > Cs > Au. The data obtained contribute to understanding of the polyfunctional role of aquatic organisms in
aquatic ecosystems.
DOI: 10.1134/S1995425510040016
Key words: detritus, mollusks, water quality; rare and scattered elements, Viviparus, Unio, Ceratophyllum

MATERIAL AND METHODS


Experiments were conducted on freshwater microcosms composed of three common freshwater species:
Viviparus viviparus L., Unio pictorum L., and Ceratophyllum demersum L. maintained in settled tapwater.
Ceratophyllum plants had been collected in a pond in
the Moskva River floodplain within Moscow City. Viviparus and Unio mollusks had been collected in the upper reaches of the Moskva River, upstream of Zvenigorod town, Moscow oblast. Quantitative characteristics of the microcosms are summarized in Table 1.
After the microcosms were made, they were incubated at a room temperature for 7.5 months (late August
through mid April) and aerated with aquarium aerators.
By the end of the incubation, the mollusks died producing biodetritus that was filtered, dried, powdered, and
studied by neutron activation analysis (NAA). The use
of NAA in geochemistry was discussed in Kolesov
[17]. It had been used to determine element content in
mollusk tissues in the study by Ostroumov et al. [18]
that confirmed its efficacy in application to biologic
material.

Functioning of aquatic ecosystems involves migration of some elements [1, 2] through water column,
transfer of elements on the watersediment interface,
and biogeochemical flows of elements [113]. Studies
of biogenic migration of elements are an important area
of biospheric research [113]. Biogenic migration of elements in freshwater and seawater ecosystems is an aspect of water self-purification and determines water
quality [1416]. It should be emphasized that the role of
aquatic organisms in element migration is complex, involves both uptake and discharge of substances, and
affects many other processes in an ecosystem [316].
To analyze how organisms contribute to biogenic
migration of elements in an aquatic ecosystem we need
data both on accumulation of elements by aquatic organisms and concentrations of those elements in biodetritus [15, 16] that precipitates and adds to sedimentation.
In the previous works [15] and [16], we determined
concentrations of some elements in mollusk detritus.
However, these studies concerned only few elements
and did not include data on U, Au, Ce, Se, La, Sb, Hf,
Th, Sc, Sm, and Cs.
In the literature we have not found data on the concentrations of the elements in detritus produced in microcosms after incubation of the common aquatic
species: Viviparus viviparus L., Unio pictorum L., and
Ceratophyllum demersum L.
The study objective is to analyze biodetritus in microcosms where the three freshwater species are incubated. Element concentrations in the detritus are
determined by neutron activation analysis (NAA). The
results contribute to understanding of the role of biosediments in distribution of elements in aquatic ecosystems.

Table 1. Microcosm compositions


Microcosm
Species
No. 1

No. 2

Viviparus viviparus

39 ind.

15 ind.

Unio pictorum

12 ind.

32 ind.

2.4 g

2.4 g

3l

3l

Ceratophyllum demersum L.
(Wet weight)
Settled tapwater
369

370

OSTROUMOV, KOLESOV

Samples were pretreated as follows. Detritus was


dried at 105C. Fifteen to twenty-five milligram samples, reference samples (KH, ST-1, SGD-1, FFA,
RUS-1, Allende, BCR, etc.), and standards were packaged in aluminum bags.
The samples were placed in an aluminum box and irradiated for 15 to 20 h in the thermal channel of the nuclear reactor at Moscow Engineering-Physical Institute. Then they were cooled, the aluminum bags were
removed, and the samples were put in clean vials to reduce background interference caused by the package.
Radiation was measured after 57 and 1530 days with
ORTEC high-resolution semiconductor germanium detector and NUC-8192 4096 channel pulse analyzer
(EMG, Hungary). Spectra and element concentrations
were determined in an automatic mode using software
developed in Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and
Analytical Chemistry. Concentrations of some elements were extrapolated, which is a common and tested
practice.
The composition of the settled tapwater, used for the
microcosms, was determined by inductively coupled
Table 2. Elemental composition of the tapwater used for
the microcosms compared to Maximum Allowable Concentrations (MAC) specified in Hygienic Standard GN 2.1
5.689-98, Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation,
Moscow, 1998
Element
Al
B
Ba
Ca
Cd
Co
Cr
Cu
Fe
K
Li
Mg
Mn
Mo
Na
Ni
Pb
Si
Sr
Ti
Zn

Concentration

MAC
mg/l

0.06
0.01
0.03
49.4
<0.001
<0.001
<0.01
<0.001
0.007
2.3
<0.01
12.6
0.016
<0.01
10.7
<0.002
<0.005
5.1
0.14
<0.001
<0.001

0.5
0.5
0.1

0.001
0.1
0.05
1
0.3

0.03

0.1
0.25

0.1
0.03
10
7
0.1
1

plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES) using


ICAP-9000 spectrometer (Thermo Jarrell Ash, USA).
The results are given in Table 2.
Water quality obviously meets requirements specified in Russian hygienic regulations, which is of high
importance for long-term incubation experiments.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The results of the neutron activation analysis are
given in Table 3. Concentrations of some elements, e.g.,
Se, U, Th, Hf, and Au, showed considerable variations
complicating the calculations of averages.
Calcium content was 15.2 to 15.4%, averaging
15.3%. Average concentrations of elements in detritus

Table 3. Element content in dry weight biodetritus in the


microcosms according to NAA, ppm
Element
La
Ce
Pr*
Nd
Sm
Eu
Gd*
Tb
Dy*
Ho*
Er*
Tm*
Yb
Lu
Cs
Ba
Sc
Zn
Se
Sb
Th
U
Br
Hf
Au

Microcosm
1

3.69
8.52
1.1
4.9
1.32
0.2
1.72
0.25
1.45
0.31
0.81
0.12
0.61
0.095
0.26
1530
0.92
1680
13.8
2.33
0.33
4.61
76
0.68
0.27

8.96
16.2
1.71
8.18
1.41
0.48
1.74
0.25
1.47
0.32
0.82
0.12
0.62
0.097
1.82
1250
1.69
1310
4.36
1.44
3.16
2.1
75
3.34
0.025

Average
6.325
12.36
1.405
6.54
1.365
0.34
1.73
0.25
1.46
0.315
0.815
0.12
0.615
0.096
1.04**
1390
1305
1495
9.08**
1.885
1.745**
3.355
75.5
2.01**
0.1475**

Note: An asterisk indicates extrapolated values (data from element


distribution curve in content: ionic radius/atomic number for rareearth metals coordinates). A double asterisk indicates considerable
variation of element concentrations. Further research should yield
more accurate data.

CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS OF ECOLOGY Vol. 3 No. 4 2010

THE ROLE OF BIODETRITUS IN ACCUMULATION OF ELEMENTS

are arranged in decreasing order as follows: Ca > Zn >


Ba > Br > Ce > Se > Nd > La > U > Hf > Sb > Th > Sm >
Cs > Au.
The biodetritus studied is different in its origin from
total sediment that accumulates in water bodies and water courses, the latter including both biodetritus and
other components, e.g., mineral suspension. It is possible that the element composition of the detritus differs
from that of total sediment analyzed by other authors
for the same reason.
Thus antimony content is higher in the biodetritus
than in total sediment [9] amounting to 0.05 to
0.11 ppm dry weight sediment.
Zinc content is also higher in the biodetritus than in
the total sediment of the Gomti River, a Ganges tributary, India, amounting to 15.72 to 99.35 ppm dry weight
sediment [10]. Relatively high zinc content in the biodetritus may be explained by the detritus having been
formed by dead organisms that had accumulated the element essential for many enzymes.
Note that flows of biosediment formed by aquatic
organisms are considerable. Ostroumov [19] estimated
that in some aquatic ecosystems mollusk carbon flows
were as high as 11.9 kg/m2 a year. Total element flow
with bivalves detritus was 1711 tons of carbon and
235 tons of nitrogen a year for a 60 km2 aquatic ecosystem.
From the data obtained we estimated the potential of
detritus in accumulating immobilized elements for areas that accumulated 1 or 1000 kg dry weight of detritus, respectively (Table 4). It should be underlined that
the estimations are only for reference and concern only
the potential of detritus to accumulate some elements.
The experimental data should not be extended to
natural ecosystems.
A distinctive feature of the experiment is that the detritus formed from known common organisms (two
mollusk and one macrophyte species) over a specific
period of time. The element concentrations in the detritus provide data on possible background element content. Further studies of element contents of the detritus
are required as its background element content in polluted natural ecosystems may be contaminated because
of anthropogenic pollution.
Our preliminary tests showed that contamination of
water with heavy metals, such as Cr, Co, Zn, Cu, and
Cd, elevated their concentrations in biodetritus compared to control samples. In order to obtain reliable estimates and correctly interpret the data on concentration
of metals in detritus in a polluted aquatic ecosystem,
data on background element composition of detritus are
required. In this study we obtained the data for detritus
formed by 3 common species of aquatic organisms.
Data on element composition of aquatic plants and
their detritus have been reported in the literature, but
there are no data on composition in mollusk detritus or
to which mollusks contributed. It appears that the previ-

371

Table 4. Rough estimates of biosediment element content


according to NAA
Element

Per 1000 g
detritus

Ca
Ba
Ce
Se
La
U
Sb
Hf
Th
Sc
Sm
Cs
Au

153 g
1.39 g
12.4 mg
9.08 mg
6.33 mg
3.50 mg
2.00 mg
2.00 mg
1.70 mg
1.40 mg
1.36 mg
1.04 mg
0.148 mg

Per 1000 kg
detritus
153 kg
1.39 kg
12.4 g
9.1 g
6.3 g
3.5 g
2g
2g
1.7 g
1.4 g
1.4 g
1.04 g
0.1 g

ous publications by Ostroumov (Table 5) are the only


works to have explored into the subject.
CONCLUSIONS
Thus, this is the first study to determine some elements in biodetritus that formed in a controlled experiment incubating three common aquatic species (Viviparus viviparus, Unio pictorum, and Ceratophyllum
demersum). The results contribute to understanding the
role of the organisms in biogenic migration of the elements. The data obtained help more thoroughly estimate the role of biodetritus of specific organisms as a
concentrator of elements in an aquatic ecosystem.
A major factor affecting detritus formation by filter-feeders is the rate of filtration determined by the
presence and concentration of surfactants, detergents,
and other chemicals [20, 21]. In the previous works by
Ostroumov, it was shown that detritus production can
be affected by pollutants [2022]. Further studies
should reveal new relations between water pollution
and detritus as an important component of aquatic ecosystemswater bodies and watercourses.
Vernadsky wrote: it is hard to overestimate the
significance of living organisms They are agents of
intensive migration of atoms in the biosphere [2],
Life is a living matterbiogenic migration of atoms
caused by life is the most important organizational form
in the biosphere [2]. The data obtained support these
views of Vernadsky, add to our knowledge of the role of
biota in biogeochemical processes, elucidate how element composition of biosediment in aquatic ecosystems forms, and reveal interconnections between
geochemical and hydrobiological processes in biogenic
migration of elements [313, 2337].

CONTEMPORARY PROBLEMS OF ECOLOGY Vol. 3 No. 4 2010

372

OSTROUMOV, KOLESOV

Table 5. Other studies of element composition in detritus of aquatic organisms


Species

Element

Viviparus viviparus,
Unio pictorum, and
Ceratophyllum
demersum
Viviparus viviparus,
Unio pictorum, and
Ceratophyllum
demersum
Cardium edule

U, Au

Ce, Se, La, Sb, Hf,


Th, Sc, Sm, Cs, and
other elements
N

Mytilus edulis
Lymnaea stagnalis,
Unio tumidus,
U. pictorum,
Crassiana crassa,
Anodonta cygnea

C
C, N, P, Si, Al

Lymnaea stagnalis,
Unio tumidus,
U. pictorum,
Crassiana crassa,
Anodonta cygnea

C, N, P, Si, Al

Mussels

Pt, Pd

Notes and references


Uranium content in the biodetritus varied from 2.1 to 4.61 ppm dry
weight detritus, 3.4 ppm on average. Gold content in the biodetritus
varied from 0.025 to 0.27 ppm dry weight detritus, 0.15 ppm on
average according to our recent results
Our recent results

Biodeposits included 199 tons N over 60 km 2, Laholm Bay, Sweden


[19]
Biodeposits included 60 to 80.7 g C over 1 m 2 [19]
Percent composition of Lymnaea stagnalis pellets: C, 69.74; N, 2.3 to
2.9; P, 0.4 to 0.5; Si, 1.1 to 1.7; Al, 0.054 to 0.059. Cation surfactant
TDTAB 2 mg/l and anionic surfactant SDS 1 to 2 mg/l inhibited
feeding by L. stagnalis and production of detritus (pellets). The study
revealed reduced migration of elements through the mollusks and
lowered biosedimentation [15]
Percent composition of pellets sampled from a bivalve natural
community feeding on natural seston: C, 64.3; N, 2.73; P, 0.39; Si,
1.14; Al, 0.071. A mixed pollutant inhibited feeding by L. stagnalis
and formation of detritus (pellets). The study revealed reduced
migration of elements in the mollusks and decreased biosedimentation
[16]
Recent data by Ostroumov

Note: TDTAB, tetradecyl trimethylammonium bromide; SDS, sodium dodecyl methylsulfate.

AKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Yu. A. Moiseeva, E. A. Solomonova,
G. Yu. Kazakov, A. V. Klepikova, and the staff of
Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical
Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences for
their help and fruitful discussion and the reviewer for
careful reading and constructive comments.
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