Accumulation of potassium, rubidium and caesium (133Cs and 137Cs) in various fractions of soil and fungi in a Swedish forest
Radiocaesium ((137)Cs) was widely deposited over large areas of forest in Sweden as a result of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and many people in Sweden eat wild fungi and game obtained from these contaminated forests. In terms of radioisotope accumulation in the food chain, it is well known that fungal sporocarps efficiently accumulate radiocaesium ((137)Cs), as well as the alkali metals potassium (K), rubidium (Rb) and caesium (Cs). The fungi then enhance uptake of these elements into host plants. This study compared the accumulation of these three alkali metals in bulk soil, rhizosphere, soil-root interface, fungal mycelium and sporocarps of mycorrhizal fungi in a Swedish forest. The soil-root interface was found to be distinctly enriched in K and Rb compared with the bulk soil. Potassium concentrations increased in the order: bulk soil<rhizosphere<fungal mycelium<soil-root interface<fungal sporocarps; and Rb concentration in the order: bulk soil<rhizosphere<soil-root interface<fungal mycelium<fungal sporocarps. Caesium was more or less evenly distributed within the bulk soil, rhizosphere and soil-root interface fractions, but was actively accumulated by fungi. Fungi showed a greater preference for Rb and K than Cs, so the uptake of (137)Cs could be prevented by providing additional Rb or K at contaminated sites. The levels of K, Rb, and Cs found in sporocarps were at least one order of magnitude higher than those in fungal mycelium. These results provide new insights into the use of transfer factors or concentration ratios. The final step, the transfer of alkali metals from fungal mycelium to sporocarps, raised some specific questions about possible mechanisms.