Microorganisms and the Biological Cycling of Selenium

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Abstract

Most studies on the microbial transformations of elements have emphasized nutrient cycling within the biosphere or the economics of agricultural or industrial processes. Cyclic transformations within the biosphere between soluble, insoluble, and gaseous forms of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur are well known. Recently, attention has been focused on the role of microorganisms in the production and degradation of chemicals containing toxic elements (Alexander, 1973; Wood, 1974). Measures to increase animal and food crop production or disposal of waste materials can result in the introduction of elements in amounts harmful to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Many elements and their compounds vary widely in both toxicity and mobility. Consequently, their safe disposal or effective recycling requires an understanding of their potential toxicities and possible transformations in the environment.