The influence of phototrophic benthic biofilms on Cd, Cu, Ni, and Pb transport in permeable sediments

felix.janssen [ at ]


The effect of phototrophic biofilm activity on advective transport of cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), and lead (Pb) in sandy sediments was examined using percolated columns. Cd and Ni in the effluent exhibited clear diel cycles in biofilm-containing columns, with concentrations at the end of dark periods exceeding those during illumination by up to 4.5- and 10-fold for Ni and Cd, respectively. Similar cycles were not observed for Pb or Cu. Breakthrough of the latter metals was greatly retarded and incomplete relative to Cd and Ni, and trends in biofilm treatments did not differ greatly from those in control columns. Inhibition of photosystem II by DCMU (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea) proved that diel cycles of Cd and Ni were controlled by oxygenic photosynthesis, and microsensor measurements showed that metal cycles closely matched metabolic activity-driven pH variations. The sorption edge pH for the sand/biofilm substrate followed the order Ni > Cd > Cu > Pb, and for Ni and Cd, was within the pH 7–10 range observed in the biofilm-containing column. Adsorption dynamics over the light periods matched pH increases, but desorption during dark periods was incomplete and slower than the rate of change of pH. Over a diel cycle, desorption was less than adsorption, resulting in net binding of dissolved metals due to the biofilm metabolic activity. Extraction with selective reagents indicated that the adsorbed metals were readily exchangeable, and potentially bioavailable. Thus, phototrophic benthic biofilms can control the transport of some metals across the sand–water interface, and processes in this very thin surficial layer should be considered when evaluating chemical fluxes in permeable sediments.

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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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DOI 10.1007/s10533-010-9429-2

Cite as
Beck, A. J. , Janssen, F. and de Beer, D. (2011): The influence of phototrophic benthic biofilms on Cd, Cu, Ni, and Pb transport in permeable sediments , Biogeochemistry, 102 (1-3), pp. 167-181 . doi: 10.1007/s10533-010-9429-2



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Funded by
EU FP6 ECODIS (project ID 51804)

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