Arsenic distribution and species in two Zostera capricorni seagrass ecosystems, New South Wales, Australia

William A. Maher*, Simon D. Foster, Anne M. Taylor, Frank Krikowa, Elliot G. Duncan, Anthony A. Chariton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Environmental context Arsenic concentrations and species were determined in seagrass ecosystems where the food web was established using carbon and nitrogen isotopes. There was a clear increase in the proportion of arsenobetaine in tissues of higher trophic level organisms, which is attributed to an increasing arsenobetaine content of the diet and the more efficient assimilation and retention of arsenobetaine over other arsenic species. The results provide an explanation for the prominence of arsenobetaine in higher marine animals. Abstract Arsenic concentrations and species were compared in biota from two Zostera capricorni ecosystems. Mean arsenic concentrations were not significantly different for non-vegetative sediment, rhizosphere sediment, Z. capricorni blades, roots, rhizomes, epiphytes, amphipods, polychaetes, molluscs, crustaceans and fish, but were significantly different in detritus. Sediments and plant tissues contained mostly inorganic arsenic and PO 4arsenoriboside. Detritus contained mostly PO 4arsenoriboside. Fish tissues contained predominately arsenobetaine. Other animals had lower proportions of arsenobetaine and variable quantities of minor arsenic species. Bioconcentration but not biomagnification of arsenic is occurring with no evidence of arsenic hyper accumulation. The proportion of arsenobetaine increases through the food web and is attributed to a shift from a mixed diet at lower trophic levels to animals containing mostly arsenobetaine at higher trophic levels and the more efficient retention of arsenobetaine, compared to other arsenic species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-18
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • arsenic occurrence
  • biomagnification
  • biotransference
  • C and N isotopes
  • food web
  • speciation.


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