, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 45-76

Metals (Fe, Mn, Zn) in the root plaque of submerged aquatic plants collected in situ: Relations with metal concentrations in the adjacent sediments and in the root tissue

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Abstract

We have investigated the extent of iron oxyhydroxide deposition on the roots of two common freshwater species, Vallisneria americana Michx. and Heteranthera dubia (Jacq.) MacM., collected from different sites in the St. Lawrence River, Québec, Canada, and have related metal concentrations in the root plaques both to the geochemical conditions prevailing in the host sediments (pH; metal partitioning) and to the metal concentrations within the plant root tissue. Possible effects of root plaque on sediment geochemistry are also discussed.

At those sites where the two submerged plants co-existed, the amounts of Fe deposited on their respective root surfaces were positively correlated, indicating that sediment geochemistry (pH; concentration of labile metal) exerted a more important influence on plaque formation than did inter-species differences (root physiology, morphology). Iron and Mn concentrations in the root plaque were positively correlated with each other, and with the readily extractable fractions (F1, 172) of these metals in the adjacent sediments. In contrast, Zn concentrations in the root plaque of V. americana were not related to Zn concentrations in the sediments — the dominant geochemical process at the root surface is Fe deposition, such that the quantities of Zn deposited on the roots are determined not by Zn geochemistry per se but rather by the amount of Fe deposition. Indeed the Zn/Fe ratios in the root plaque were related to the Zn/Fe ratios in the surrounding sediments (NH2OH•HCl extract).

On a concentration basis (μg/g), more Fe, Mn and Zn was found outside the root, in the iron plaque, than inside the root tissues. For all 3 metals, significant relationships were observed between the metal concentrations in the plaque and those inside the roots. For Zn, however, the best statistical relationship was not with [Zn]plaque, but rather with the [Zn]/[Fe] ratio in the plaque. It is hypothesized that the Zn/Fe ratio in the root plaque reflects the free Zn2+ concentration adjacent to the root surface, and that this in turn affects Zn uptake by the plant root. For a given value of Zn in the sediments or in the root plaque, the Zn content of the root is inversely related to the concentration of Fe oxyhydroxides, implying that Fe plays a protective role in regulating Zn bioavailability.