Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 156, Issue 1–3, pp 367–375 | Cite as

Speciation, Distribution, and Bioavailability of Soil Selenium in the Tibetan Plateau Kashin–Beck Disease Area—A Case Study in Songpan County, Sichuan Province, China

  • Jing Wang
  • Hairong Li
  • Yonghua Li
  • Jiangping Yu
  • Linsheng Yang
  • Fujian Feng
  • Zhuo Chen


To clarify the relationship between the soil selenium distribution and its bioavailability with the distribution of Kashin–Beck disease (KBD) endemic areas on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, samples of natural soil (0–20 cm), cultivated topsoil, and main crops of the region (highland barley) were collected at different altitudes according to topographical and geomorphological features in both KBD and non-KBD areas of Songpan County. These samples were used for determination and analysis of total selenium content in soil and highland barley and available selenium that can be absorbed and utilized by plants. The results showed that the average total selenium content of natural and cultivated topsoil in KBD areas was lower than that in non-KBD areas (natural soil, P = 0.061; cultivated soil, P = 0.002), which is in agreement with the geographical distributions of selenium in other KBD-affected areas. However, the total soil selenium content exhibits certain micro-spatial distribution features, namely, the total selenium content in some endemic areas was significantly higher than that of non-KBD areas. This result was contrary to the general distribution that total selenium content in a KBD-affected area is lower than that in a non-KBD area. We further studied the extraction rate and content of soil selenium in six different fractions. The results indicated that the content and extraction rate of available selenium in KBD-affected areas were significantly lower than those in non-KBD areas. There is a distinct positive correlation between plant-available selenium and highland barley selenium (r = 0.875, P = 0.001) and a distinct negative correlation with altitude (r = −0.801, P = 0.010). Therefore, in KBD endemic areas, the selenium content in crops decreases as the available selenium content in soil decreases and is closely related to the geographical environment features (such as altitude and precipitation). These results suggest that the soil available selenium and ecological features are important factors that restrict the dietary selenium flux for residents in KBD endemic areas of the Tibetan Plateau, providing a theoretical and experimental basis for implementing agricultural measures to regulate the ecological cycle of the selenium flux in the KBD endemic area.


Tibetan Plateau Kashin–Beck disease Soil selenium Bioavailability of selenium 



We gratefully acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 41171081), the National 12th Five-Year Plan scientific and technological issues (no. 2013BAC04B03), and the National 11th Five-Year Plan scientific and technological issues (no. 2007BAI25B01). We also thank Prof. Shaofan Hou for his careful guidance as well as the local government of Songpan County, Sichuan Province for their help during the field investigations. Finally, special thanks are due to all the reviewers for improvement of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hairong Li
    • 1
  • Yonghua Li
    • 1
  • Jiangping Yu
    • 1
  • Linsheng Yang
    • 1
  • Fujian Feng
    • 1
  • Zhuo Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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