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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Mar 14;114(11):2848-2853. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1611576114. Epub 2017 Feb 21.

Selenium deficiency risk predicted to increase under future climate change.

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Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland.
Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, 14473 Potsdam, Germany.
Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Sustainable Soils and Grassland Systems, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom.
Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UU, United Kingdom.
Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, 8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland;


Deficiencies of micronutrients, including essential trace elements, affect up to 3 billion people worldwide. The dietary availability of trace elements is determined largely by their soil concentrations. Until now, the mechanisms governing soil concentrations have been evaluated in small-scale studies, which identify soil physicochemical properties as governing variables. However, global concentrations of trace elements and the factors controlling their distributions are virtually unknown. We used 33,241 soil data points to model recent (1980-1999) global distributions of Selenium (Se), an essential trace element that is required for humans. Worldwide, up to one in seven people have been estimated to have low dietary Se intake. Contrary to small-scale studies, soil Se concentrations were dominated by climate-soil interactions. Using moderate climate-change scenarios for 2080-2099, we predicted that changes in climate and soil organic carbon content will lead to overall decreased soil Se concentrations, particularly in agricultural areas; these decreases could increase the prevalence of Se deficiency. The importance of climate-soil interactions to Se distributions suggests that other trace elements with similar retention mechanisms will be similarly affected by climate change.


climate change; global distribution; prediction; selenium; soils

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