Dependence of arsenic fate and transport on biogeochemical heterogeneity arising from the physical structure of soils and sediments

J Environ Qual. 2013 Jul;42(4):1119-29. doi: 10.2134/jeq2012.0253.


Reduction of As(V) and Fe(III) is commonly the dominant process controlling the fate and transport of As in soils and sediments. However, the physical structure of such environments produces complex heterogeneity in biogeochemical processes controlling the fate and transport of As. To resolve the role of soil and sediment physical structure on the distribution of biogeochemical processes controlling the fate and transport of As, we examined the biogeochemical transformations of As and Fe within constructed aggregates-a fundamental unit of soil structure. Spherical aggregates were made with As(V)- or As(III)-bearing, ferrihydrite-coated quartz that was fused with agarose and placed in a cylindrical reactor; advective flow of anoxic solutes was then initiated around the aggregates to examine As release from a dual-pore domain system. To examine the impact of biotic As(V) and Fe(III) reduction, constructed aggregates having As(V)-bearing, ferrihydrite-coated quartz inoculated with sp. ANA-3 were placed in flow-through reactors under anoxic and aerated advective flow. Consistent with desorption from advective columns, As(III) is released to advecting water more prevalently than As(V) within abiotic aggregate systems, indicating a greater lability and concomitant enhanced propensity for transport of As(III) relative to As(V). During reaction with , As release to advecting water was similar between anoxic and aerated systems for the first 20 d; thereafter, the anoxic advecting solutes increased As release relative to the aerated counterpart. With aerated advecting solutes, Fe remained oxidized (or was oxidized) in the aggregate exterior, forming a protective barrier that limited As release to the advective channel. However, anaerobiosis within the aggregate interior, even with aerated advective flow, promotes internal repartitioning of As to the exterior region.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic* / chemistry
  • Ferric Compounds / chemistry
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Soil*


  • Ferric Compounds
  • Soil
  • Iron
  • Arsenic