Cd Mobility in Anoxic Fe-Mineral-Rich Environments – Potential Use of Fe(III)-Reducing Bacteria in Soil Remediation
Abstract:Agricultural soils are increasingly burdened with heavy metals such as Cd from industrial sources and impure fertilizers. Metal contaminants enter the food chain via plant uptake from soil and negatively affect human and environmental health. New remediation approaches are needed to lower soil metal contents. To apply these remediation techniques successfully, it is necessary to understand how soil microbes and minerals interact with toxic metals.
Here we show that microbial Fe(III) reduction initially mobilizes Cd before its immobilization under anoxic conditions. To study how microbial Fe(III) reduction influences Cd mobility, we isolated a new Cd-tolerant, Fe(III)-reducing Geobacter sp. from a heavily Cd-contaminated soil. In lab experiments, this Geobacter strain first mobilized Cd from Cd-loaded Fe(III) hydroxides followed by precipitation of Cd-bearing mineral phases. Using Mössbauer spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy, the original and newly formed Cd-containing Fe(II) and Fe(III) mineral phases, including Cd-Fe-carbonates, Fe-phosphates and Fe-(oxyhydr)oxides, were identified and characterized. Using energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and synchrotron-based scanning transmission X-ray microscopy, Cd was mapped in the Fe(II) mineral aggregates formed during microbial Fe(III) reduction.
Microbial Fe(III) reduction mobilizes Cd prior to its precipitation in Cd-bearing mineral phases. The mobilized Cd could be taken up by phytoremediating plants, resulting in a net removal of Cd from contaminated sites. Alternatively, Cd precipitation could reduce Cd bioavailability in the environment, causing less toxic effects to crops and soil microbiota. However, the stability and thus bioavailability of these newly formed Fe-Cd mineral phases needs to be assessed thoroughly. Whether phytoremediation or immobilization of Cd in a mineral with reduced Cd bioavailability are feasible mechanisms to reduce toxic effects of Cd in the environment remains to be determined.