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Episodes 2023; 46(4): 653-664

Published online December 1, 2023


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Towards a comprehensive understanding of the “Origin, distribution, and biogeochemistry of arsenic in the Altiplano-Puna plateau of South America” with the IGCP-707 project

Jesica Murray1,2*, Joseline Tapia3,4, Mauricio Ormachea5, Noemi Tirado6, D. Kirk Nordstrom7

1 Instituto de Bio y Geociencias del NOA (IBIGEO), Universidad Nacional de Salta - CONICET, Rosario de Lerma, Salta, Argentina
2 Institut Terre et Environnement de Strasbourg (ITES), Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, UMR 7063, Strasbourg, France
3 Departamento de Ciencias Geológicas, Universidad Católica del Norte, Antofagasta, Chile
4 Instituto Milenio en Riesgo Volcánico CKELAR, Chile
5 Instituto de Investigaciones Químicas, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Campus Universitario, La Paz, Bolivia
6 Instituto de Genética-Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia
7 United States Geological Survey, Boulder, CO, USA

Correspondence to:*E-mail: murray.jesica@conicet.gov.ar

Received: December 7, 2022; Revised: May 22, 2023; Accepted: May 22, 2023

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Arsenic (As) is one of the most prevalent geogenic trace elements in the groundwater environment that presents a worldwide health concern. In South America, the “Altiplano-Puna” plateau exhibits high As concentrations in water that could be affecting 3 million inhabitants from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Perú. In this As-rich environment with limited water resources, there exists a lack of knowledge regarding the basic geochemistry of As, water quality characterization, and affected population and biodiversity. Between 2020-2022 we performed interdisciplinary research to understand (i) the origin of As, (ii) its geochemistry and mobility, (iii) its distribution in the environment, and (iv) its effects in the local community and unique biodiversity. Our research provides new scientific insights into the biogeochemical cycle of As in the environment and its effect on human health and biodiversity. Our dissemination activities increased the visibility of the As issue for the region that had historically received little attention from the scientific community and local authorities. This project led to additional funding and the creation of a solid research network between the South and North hemispheres, fostering the participation of young researchers, students, and women. An extension of the project was obtained to continue our work during 2023.

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