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Abundant stocks and mobilization of elements in boreal acid sulfate soils

Yli-Halla, Markku, Virtanen, Seija, Mäkelä, Minna, Simojoki, Asko, Hirvi, Mirva, Innanen, Saila, Mäkelä, Jaakko, Sullivan, Leigh
Geoderma 2017
X-radiation, X-ray diffraction, acid sulfate soils, acidity, ammonium nitrogen, calcium, carbon dioxide, cations, energy-dispersive X-ray analysis, greenhouse gas emissions, iron, jarosite, leaching, lysimeters, magnesium, monitoring, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, organic soils, oxidation, peat, rhizosphere, root channels, scanning electron microscopy, sulfates, topsoil, zinc, Finland
Large amounts of sulfate and divalent iron (Fe) are released into the pore water of acid sulfate (AS) soils upon oxidation of sulfidic materials. The simultaneously produced acidity dissolves metals from the soil matrix. Reduced horizons of AS soils commonly have a large mineral nitrogen (N) stock in the form of NH4+-N, which is a potential source of N leaching and gaseous emissions. This study was carried out at three AS soil sites in Finland. Cation composition of pore water was monitored in a monolithic lysimeter experiment. Timothy samples grown in an AS soil were analysed for mineral elements and the soil was investigated for zinc (Zn) distribution in different chemical species at four depths down to 85cm. The composition of pipestems formed in previous root channels was investigated by SEM, X-ray EDX and XRD. Emissions of CO2 and N2O were measured in an AS field which had a peaty topsoil. Monitoring by closed chambers was carried out at three sites differing in the depth of peat layer (15, 30 and 60cm). In the sulfuric horizon, large amounts of calcium and magnesium were mobilized. Reflooding stopped the mobilization of those elements but resulted in abundant dissolution of Fe, which became the dominant cation in the pore water. Timothy growing in an AS soil showed only small deviations from the average composition measured in Finland with the exception of Zn that was at the deficiency level. As Zn in the root zone had been dissolved and subsequently leached, it was recovered in easily soluble forms in the subsoil. Pipestem composition indicated accumulation of Fe and formation of a new solid phase probably mostly in the form of schwertmannite even though jarosite was also detected. The annual CO2 emissions from the peaty AS soil were about 6000kgCha−1 but the N2O emissions were relatively small, with a magnitude more typical of mineral rather than organic soils. Thus, large N stock of an AS soil do not necessarily contribute to abundant gaseous N emissions.