Spread of metals through an invertebrate food chain as influenced by a plant that hyperaccumulates nickel

  • Peterson L
  • Trivett V
  • Baker A
 et al. 
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Hyperaccumulation of metals in the shoot system of plants is uncommon, yet taxonomically and geographically widespread. It may have a variety of functions, including defense against herbivores. This study investigated the effects of hyperaccumulation on metal concentrations across trophic levels. We collected plant material, soil, and invertebrates from Portuguese serpentine outcrops whose vegetation is dominated by the nickel hyperaccumulator Alyssum pintodasilvae. Samples were analyzed for nickel, chromium, and cobalt. Grasshoppers, spiders, and other invertebrates collected from sites where A. pintodasilvae was common had significantly elevated concentrations of nickel, compared to nearby sites where this hyperaccumulator was not found. Chromium and cobalt, occurring in high concentrations in the serpentine soil but not accumulated by A. pintodasilvae, were not elevated in the invertebrates. Therefore, it appears likely that a flux of nickel to herbivore and carnivore trophic levels is specifically facilitated by the presence of plants that hyperaccumulate this metal. The results may be relevant to the development of phytoremediation and phytomining technologies, which use plants to extract metals from the soil.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alyssum
  • Hyperaccumulation
  • Phytomining
  • Phytoremediation
  • Trace elements

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  • Lynsey R. Peterson

  • Victoria Trivett

  • Alan J.M. Baker

  • Carlos Aguiar

  • A. Joseph Pollard

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