The formation and fate of organoarsenic species in marine ecosystems: Do existing experimental approaches appropriately simulate ecosystem complexity?


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Environmental context In marine environments, inorganic arsenic present in seawater is transformed to organoarsenic species, mainly arsenoribosides in algae and arsenobetaine in animals. These transformations decrease the toxicity of arsenic, yet the fate of arsenoribosides and arsenobetaine when marine organisms decompose is unknown. We review the current literature on the degradation of these organoarsenic species in marine systems detailing the drivers behind their degradation, and also discuss the environmental relevance of laboratory-based experiments. Abstract Despite arsenoribosides and arsenobetaine (AB) being the major arsenic species in marine macro-algae and animals they have never been detected in seawater. In all studies reviewed arsenoribosides from marine macro-algae were degraded to thio-arsenoribosides, dimethylarsinoylethanol (DMAE), dimethylarsenate (DMA), methylarsenate (MA) with arsenate (AsV) the final product of degradation. The use of different macro-algae species and different experimental microcosms did not influence the arsenoriboside degradation pathway. The use of different experimental approaches, however, did influence the rate and extent at which arsenoriboside degradation occurred. This was almost certainly a function of the complexity of the microbial community within the microcosm, with greater complexity resulting in rapid and more complete arsenoriboside degradation. AB from decomposing animal tissues is degraded to trimethylarsine oxide (TMAO) or dimethylarsenoacetate (DMAA), DMA and finally AsV. The degradation of AB unlike arsenoribosides occurs via a dual pathway with environmental or microbial community variability influencing the pathway taken. The environmental validity of different experimental approaches used to examine the fate of organoarsenic species was also reviewed. It was evident that although liquid culture incubation studies are cheap and reproducible they lack the ability to culture representative microbial communities. Microcosm studies that include sand and sediment are more environmentally representative as they are a better simulation of marine ecosystems and are also likely to facilitate complex microbial communities. An added benefit of microcosm studies is that they are able to be run in parallel with field-based research to provide a holistic assessment of the degradation of organoarsenic species in marine environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Chemistry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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