Selenium volatilization from tundra soils in maritime Antarctica

Wenjuan Ye, Linxi Yuan, Renbin Zhu*, Xuebin Yin, Gary Bañuelos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Maritime Antarctica harbors a large number of penguins and seals that provide considerable input of selenium (Se) originating as guano into terrestrial ecosystems. Subsequent Se emissions via biomethylation and volatilization from these sources of Se have not been studied. Here, penguin colony soils (PCS) and adjacent tundra marsh soils (TMS), seal colony soils (SCS) and adjacent tundra soils (STS), and normal upland tundra soils (NTS) were collected in maritime Antarctica. For the first time, Se volatilization and speciation were investigated in these soils through incubation experiments using chemo-trapping method. The Se contents in PCS, SCS, STS and TMS were highly enriched compared with NTS, with organic matter-bound Se accounting for 70%-80%. Laboratory incubations yielded the greatest Se volatilization rates (VRSe) in PCS (0.20 ± 0.01 μg kg−1 d−1), followed by SCS (0.14 ± 0.01 μg kg−1 d−1) at low temperature (4 °C). Soil frozen-thawing induced 1–4 fold increase in VRSe, and the VRSe continuously increased until the soils fully thawed. The VRSe showed a significant positive correlation (R2 = 0.96, p < 0.01) with soil temperature. Methylated Se species were dominated by dimethylselenide (DMSe) in PCS and dimethyldiselenide (DMDSe) in SCS. Our results imply that the combination of climate warming, frozen-thawing processes, and high-Se inputs from sea animals will significantly increase tundra soil Se volatilization in maritime Antarctica. High VRSe from penguin colony soils, and significantly elevated Se levels in the mosses close to penguin colony, suggest that volatilization of Se from penguin colony soils play an important role in the mobilization and regional biogeochemical cycling of Se in maritime Antarctica.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106189
JournalEnvironment International
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Antarctica
  • Penguin guano
  • Selenium methylation
  • Selenium volatilization
  • Tundra soil


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