Potential kinetic availability of metals in sulphidic freshwater sediments
The insolubility of metal sulphides is believed to limit the bioavailability of trace metals in sulphidic sediments. However, if non-equilibrium conditions are important, metals may be more available than simple thermodynamic calculations suggest. To investigate the possible dynamic supply of Cu, Ni and Zn in a sulphidic freshwater sediment, they were measured, along with iron, manganese and sulphide, by the technique of diffusive gradients in thin-films (DGT). DGT measures the supply of solute from sediment to solution in response to a local solute sink. Release of Mn, Cu, Zn and Ni was observed at the sediment surface and attributed to the supply from reductive dissolution of manganese oxides. The depth profile of simultaneously extractable metals (SEM) for Cu and Ni followed the shape of the Mn profile more closely than the profiles of either acid volatile sulphur (AVS) or Fe, again consistent with supply from Mn oxides. Solubility calculations for a mesocosm of homogenised sediment indicated supersaturation with respect to the sulphides of Fe, Cu, Ni and Zn, yet DGT measurements demonstrated a substantial supply of both trace metals and sulphide from the solid phase to the pore waters. Ratios of metals measured in pore waters by DGT were consistent with their release from iron and manganese oxides, indicating that supply, as much as removal processes, determines the pseudo-steady state concentrations in the pore waters. The observations suggest that trace metals are not immediately bound in an insoluble, inert form when they are in contact with sulphide. This has consequences for modelling metal processes in sediment, as well as for uptake by some biota.
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