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Stable isotopic composition of perchlorate and nitrate accumulated in plants: Hydroponic experiments and field data

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Science of The Total Environment
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Natural perchlorate (ClO4−) in soil and groundwater exhibits a wide range in stable isotopic compositions (δ37Cl, δ18O, and Δ17O), indicating that ClO4− may be formed through more than one pathway and/or undergoes post-depositional isotopic alteration. Plants are known to accumulate ClO4−, but little is known about their ability to alter its isotopic composition. We examined the potential for plants to alter the isotopic composition of ClO4− in hydroponic and field experiments conducted with snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). In hydroponic studies, anion ratios indicated that ClO4− was transported from solutions into plants similarly to NO3− but preferentially to Cl− (4-fold). The ClO4− isotopic compositions of initial ClO4− reagents, final growth solutions, and aqueous extracts from plant tissues were essentially indistinguishable, indicating no significant isotope effects during ClO4− uptake or accumulation. The ClO4− isotopic composition of field-grown snap beans was also consistent with that of ClO4− in varying proportions from irrigation water and precipitation. NO3− uptake had little or no effect on NO3− isotopic compositions in hydroponic solutions. However, a large fractionation effect with an apparent ε (15N/18O) ratio of 1.05 was observed between NO3− in hydroponic solutions and leaf extracts, consistent with partial NO3− reduction during assimilation within plant tissue. We also explored the feasibility of evaluating sources of ClO4− in commercial produce, as illustrated by spinach, for which the ClO4− isotopic composition was similar to that of indigenous natural ClO4−. Our results indicate that some types of plants can accumulate and (presumably) release ClO4− to soil and groundwater without altering its isotopic characteristics. Concentrations and isotopic compositions of ClO4− and NO3− in plants may be useful for determining sources of fertilizers and sources of ClO4− in their growth environments and consequently in food supplies.