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The circumvention of the natural biopurification of calcium along nutrient pathways by atmospheric inputs of industrial lead

Elias, Robert W. and Hirao, Yoshimitsu and Patterson, Clair C. (1982) The circumvention of the natural biopurification of calcium along nutrient pathways by atmospheric inputs of industrial lead. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 46 (12). pp. 2561-2580. ISSN 0016-7037. doi:10.1016/0016-7037(82)90378-7.

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Biopurification factors for Ca with respect to Sr, Ba, and natural, uncontaminated Pb were measured for different nutrient-consumer pairs in a remote subalpine ecosystem. The factor for Sr is expressed as: (nutrient St/Ca) ÷ (consumer Sr/Ca). Similar expressions were used for Ba/Ca and Pb/Ca. It was found that Ca was biopurified of Sr 3-fold, of Ba 16-fold, and of Pb 100-fold in going from rock to sedge leaves. In going from sedge leaf to vole, Ca was biopurified of Sr 4-fold, of Ba 8-fold, and of Pb 16-fold. In going from meadow vole to pine marten, Ca was biopurified of Sr 6-fold, of Ba 7-fold, and of Pb 1.1-fold. Similar ranges of values for these factors were obtained for detrital and amphibian food chains. Fluxes of industrial lead entering the ecosystem as precipitation and dry deposition were measured and it was found that 40% of the lead in soil humus and soil moisture, 82% of the lead in sedge leaves, 92% of the lead in vole, and 97% of the lead in marten was industrial. The natural skeletal Pb/Ca ratio in carnivores (4 × 10^(−8)) was determined by means of corrections for inputs of industrial lead, food chain relationships, and measured biopurification factors for the ecosystem studied. This represents a 1700-fold reduction of the average Pb/Ca ratio in igneous rocks at the earth's surface (6.4 × 10^(−5)) by the compounding of successive Pb biopurification factors in transferring Ca from rock to carnivore. The natural ratio is similar to the value of 6 × 10^(−8) observed for Pb/Ca in the bones of Peruvians who lived 2000 years ago but is 1/900th of the value of about 3.5 × 10^(−5) for the skeletal Pb/Ca ratio found in present day Americans. This study shows experimentally how the Ba/Ca ratio in average surface igneous rock (3 × 10^(−3)) has been reduced 800-fold through compounding of successive biopurification steps to provide the skeletal Ba/Ca ratio of about 4 × 10^(−6) observed in humans. It also provides biopurification factors for Sr and Ba among a number of nutrient-consumer pairs which anthropologists can use to delineate degrees of herbivory in diets of hominids within the last 10,000 years.

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Additional Information:© 1982 Pergamon Press Ltd. Received December 2, 1981; accepted in revised form September 20, 1982. This work has been supported by a number of NSF grants starting with NSF GB 31038 and continuing through ten years to NSF DEB 7911548. We thank John Brooks, Director, Division of Environmental Biology, NSF, who was Program Director when this project was initiated, for confidence in this project. W. R. Jones, Park Naturalist, and Jan von Wagtendonk, Research Biologist, Yosemite National Park assisted in obtaining permission for us to carry out studies within the park. B. Brattstrom and J. Smith, Cal State University Fullerton, and H. Lowenstam and R. P. Sharp, Caltech, assisted in site selection and animal collection, and provided field equipment. Advice concerning rock geology, chronology and mineralogy of soils, assistance in collecting samples and determining characteristics of soils, provision of analytical data and laboratory facilities came from T. K. Hinkley, U.S.G.S., Denver, W. D. Nettleton, U.S. Dept. Agri. Soil Conserv., Riverside, CA, D. S. Peck, U.S.G.S., Menlo Park, CA, R. F. Reitemeier, formerly U.S.A.E.C., Washington, D.C., C. Wahrhaftig, U.C. Berkeley, and S. Wood, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. Advice on hydrology and loan of stream flow and snow measuring equipment were provided by R. Rice, U.S. Forest Service, P.S.F.R. Exp. Sta., San Dimas, CA and U. H. Lemons, Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Station, Cal. Dept. Water Res., Sacramento, CA. C. Davidson, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, S. K. Friedlander, U.C. Los Angeles, and J. J. Huntzicker, Oregon Graduate Center, Beaverton, provided assistance and equipment relating to measurements of dry deposition fluxes of metals. Assistance in plant and animal identifications was provided by J. Miller, U.C. Los Angeles, S. Patterson, Crawfordsville, lA, J. L. Patton, U.C. Berkeley, and C. Sharsmith, Cal State University, San Jose. Advice concerning plant nutrition and food chain dynamics of animals was provided by E. Epstein, U.C. Davis, P. Escherich, U.C. Berkeley and G. Walsberg, U.C. Los Angeles. Some isotope spikes, standards, and ultra-pure chemicals were provided by L. T. Silver and G. T. Wasserburg, Caltech, and M. Tatsumoto, U.S.G.S., Denver. Assistance in collection of samples and laboratory analyses were provided by K. Fujii and H. Shirahata, Muroran Institute of Technology, Japan, L. Newbern, Lesotho, and D. M. Settle, Caltech.
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NSFGB 31038
NSFDEB 7911548
Issue or Number:12
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140820-074314477
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Official Citation:Robert W. Elias, Yoshimitsu Hirao, Clair C. Patterson, The circumvention of the natural biopurification of calcium along nutrient pathways by atmospheric inputs of industrial lead, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 46, Issue 12, December 1982, Pages 2561-2580, ISSN 0016-7037, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:48705
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:20 Aug 2014 15:24
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 18:34

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