Localized Flux Maxima of Arsenic, Lead, and Iron around Root Apices in Flooded Lowland Rice

In wetland-adapted plants, such as rice, it is typically root apexes, sites of rapid entry for water/nutrients, where radial oxygen losses (ROLs) are highest. Nutrient/toxic metal uptake therefore largely occurs through oxidized zones and pH microgradients. However, the processes controlling the acquisition of trace elements in rice have been difficult to explore experimentally because of a lack of techniques for simultaneously measuring labile trace elements and O<sub>2</sub>/pH. Here, we use new diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT)/planar optode sandwich sensors deployed <i>in situ</i> on rice roots to demonstrate a new geochemical niche of greatly enhanced As, Pb, and Fe­(II) mobilization into solution immediately adjacent to the root tips characterized by O<sub>2</sub> enrichment and low pH. Fe­(II) mobilization was congruent to that of the peripheral edge of the aerobic root zone, demonstrating that the Fe­(II) mobilization maximum only developed in a narrow O<sub>2</sub> range as the oxidation front penetrates the reducing soil. The Fe flux to the DGT resin at the root apexes was 3-fold higher than the anaerobic bulk soil and 27 times greater than the aerobic rooting zone. These results provide new evidence for the importance of coupled diffusion and oxidation of Fe in modulating trace metal solubilization, dispersion, and plant uptake.