Biological Control of Trace Metal Equilibria in Surface Waters

  • John P. Giesy
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 6)


It has long been known that aquatic organisms can release organic compounds to their environment. While there are organics present from the decomposition of animals and, through excretion, as waste products from animals (Ferrante, 1976), most of the organics released to the aquatic environment are from plants (Fogg, 1951; Fogg, 1963; Gessner, 1965; Hellebust, 1965; Fogg, 1966; Forsberg and Taube, 1967; Khailov and Burlakova, 1969; Sieburth, 1969; Anderson and Zeutschel, 1970; Khailov and Finenko, 1970; Zajic, 1970; Berman, 1976). The compounds released by phytoplankton which form complexes with metals include amino acids, polypeptides, proteins, porphyrins, pterins, and purines (Khailov, 1964). The littoral marine alga, Fucus vesiculosus releases as much as 40% of the carbon which it fixes. Khailov and Burlakova (1969) found as much as 39% of brown algal (and 38% of red algal) production was released as soluble extracellular products. Phytoplankton can release as much as 50% of their carbon which has been photosynthetically fixed (Fogg, 1951; Berman, 1976). Fogg and Westlake (1955) speculated that the polypeptides extensively released by blue-green algae may form complexes with metals and have important effects on ecology. Most of the organic complexing capacity of sea water is due to autochthonous production of organic compounds (Davey et al., 1973) by phytoplankton (Duursma, 1963; Anderson and Zeutschel, 1970; Thomas, 1971; Daumas, 1976). In a study of copper release from the thalli of benthic red algae, Seeliger and Edwards (1979) found that 22% of the copper released from living thalli was bound to dissolved organic matter, and 80–90% of the copper released from decomposing thalli was associated with dissolved organic compounds.


Trace Metal Dissolve Organic Matter Formation Constant Hydroxamic Acid Extracellular Product 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • John P. Giesy
    • 1
  1. 1.Pesticide Research Center, and Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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