Non-toxic arsenic in mushrooms and plants from Yellowknife

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: contaminants, biology, soil, vegetation, arsenic, genetics, microbiology, mushroom

Principal Investigator: Reimer, Kenneth J. (3)
Licence Number: 15095
Organization: Environmental Sciences Group, Royal Military College of Canada
Licenced Year(s): 2012
Issued: Jun 15, 2012
Project Team: Iris Koch (Co-Research Supervisor, Environmental Sciences Group, RMC), Michelle Nearing (Ph.D. Candidate, Environmental Sciences Group, RMC)

Objective(s): To determine total arsenic and arsenic species in edible and non-edible mushrooms from contaminated and uncontaminated locations (mine properties and roadsides/parks); to determine total arsenic and arsenic species in plants including Labrador tea, horsetails, buffaloberry, fireweed and berries (if available) from contaminated and uncontaminated locations (mine properties and roadsides/parks); and to determine arsenic species and microbial distributions in soils in which the above are growing.

Project Description: The objectives of this research is to: determine total arsenic and arsenic species in edible and non-edible mushrooms from contaminated and uncontaminated locations (mine properties and roadsides/parks); determine total arsenic and arsenic species in plants including Labrador tea, horsetails, buffaloberry, fireweed and berries (if available) from contaminated and uncontaminated locations (mine properties and roadsides/parks); and to determine arsenic species and microbial distributions in soils in which the above are growing.

Mushroom and plant sampling will involve collecting minimal amounts of plants. The mushrooms will be collected as available (i.e. whatever is growing, and that we can identify) but certain species will be targeted: shaggy mane mushrooms (Coprinus comatus), field or meadow mushrooms (any Agaricus species), puffballs (Geastrum species, or Calvatia species), and Amanita species (these include poisonous mushrooms like destroying angel and fly agaric). These are the mushroom species that previous studies have shown contain a lot of non-toxic arsenic. Plants will be targeted as those that have been sampled previously and may contain very small amounts of non-toxic arsenic (we would like to confirm our previous findings). They include Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum), buffaloberry (Shepherdia sp.), fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium), horsetails (Equistum species), bog birch (Betula pumila), white birch (Betula papyrifera), black spruce (Picea mariana), willow (Salix species), and available berries. Minimal amounts of soil will be collected from mushroom and plant sampling locations using sterile techniques. Sampling locations will be selected according to where the mushrooms and plants have been found previously and may include the locations on the attached map (but may change, depending on availability). Locations will also be refined based on how much arsenic is present in the soils. The research team will determine the concentrations on-site in real time with a handheld field portable x-ray fluorescence instrument (which team members will be licensed by Health Canada to use in a field setting). Analysis will be carried out off-site by using a combination of high performance liquid chromatography – inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry at RMC and x-ray absorption spectroscopy at synchrotron facilities available to us. Microbial distributions in soil samples will be determined by using DNA analysis to allow for comparisons between contaminated and uncontaminated sites, and soils hosting mushrooms and/or plants that contain non-toxic arsenic and those that do not.

A Ph.D. student will be carrying out most of the work and will produce results that are publishable in the scientific peer-reviewed literature. There will be pamphlets available for distribution to any interested parties or bystanders, which will describe the current research project as well as the results of our 2010 research projects carried out in Yellowknife. Drafts of publications and presentations will be communicated, if they are interested, to Aurora Research Institute and to other organizations (e.g., First Nations groups) if ARI judges it to be appropriate. Any communications that we provide will be freely available to ARI or other groups for distribution as they wish. If a public meeting or similar communication strategy is desired, the research team has experience with participating, mediating and organizing these, and also with training sessions in the north. The principal investigators are available for giving lectures or information sessions if desired.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 10, 2012 to September 15, 2012.