Isotope fractionation of selenium by biomethylation in microcosm incubations of soil

Schilling, Kathrin; Johnson, Thomas M.; Wilcke, Wolfgang (2013). Isotope fractionation of selenium by biomethylation in microcosm incubations of soil. Chemical geology, 352, pp. 101-107. Elsevier 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2013.05.013

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The natural abundance of stable Se isotopes in methylselenides reflects sources and formation conditions of methylselenides. We tested the effects of (i) different inorganic Se species spiked to soils and (ii) different soil samples on the extent of fungal biomethylation of Se and the Se isotope ratios (δ82/76Se) in methylselenides. Furthermore, we assessed the decrease of dissolved, bioavailable Se during three days of equilibration of the soils with Se-enriched solutions. We conducted closed microcosm experiments containing soil spiked with Se(IV) or Se(VI), a growth medium, and the fungus species Alternaria alternata for 11 d. The concentrations and isotope ratios of Se were determined in all components of the microcosm with multicollector ICP-MS. The equilibration of the spiked Se(IV) and Se(VI) for 3 d resulted in a decrease of dissolved, bioavailable Se concentrations by 32 to 44% and 8 to 14%, respectively. Very little isotope fractionation occurred during this phase, and it can be attributed to mixing of the added Se with the pre-existing Se in the soils and minor Se(IV) reduction in one experiment. In two of the incubated soils – moderately acidic roadside and garden soils – between 9.1 and 30% of the supplied Se(IV) and 1.7% of the supplied Se(VI) were methylated while in a strongly acidic forest soil no Se methylation occurred. The methylselenides derived from Se(IV) were strongly depleted in 82Se (δ82/76Se = − 3.3 to − 4.5‰) compared with the soil (0.16–0.45‰) and the added Se(IV) (0.20‰). The methylselenide yield of the incubations with Se(VI) was too small for isotope measurements. Our results demonstrate that Se source species and soil properties influence the extent of Se biomethylation and that the produced methylselenides contain isotopically light Se.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Physical Geography > Unit Soil Science
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography

UniBE Contributor:

Wilcke, Wolfgang


900 History > 910 Geography & travel








Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2014 10:03

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:27

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Se isotopes, Soil, Biomethylation, Sorption, MC-ICP-MS, Cycle




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