Fate of airborne metal pollution in soils as related to agricultural management: 2. Assessing the role of biological activity in micro-scale Zn and Pb distributions in A, B and C horizons

C. Fernandez, J. Labanowski, T. Jongmans, A. Bermond, P. Cambier, I. Lamy, F. van Oort

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11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This work assesses relationships between characteristic aggregate microstructures related to biological activity in soils under different long-term land use and the distribution and extractability of metal pollutants. We selected two neighbouring soils contaminated with comparable metal loads by past atmospheric deposition. Currently, these soils contain similar stocks, but different distributions of zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) concentrations with depth. One century of continuous land use as permanent pasture (PP) and conventional arable (CA) land, has led to the development of two soils with different macro- and micro-morphological characteristics. We studied distributions of organic matter, characteristic micro-structures and earthworm-worked soil by optical microscopy in thin sections from A, B and C horizons. Concentrations and amounts of total and EDTA-extractable Zn and Pb were determined on bulk samples from soil horizons and on size-fractions obtained by physical fractionation in water. Large amounts of Zn and Pb were found in 2–20-µm fractions, ascribed to stable organo-mineral micro-aggregates influenced by root and microbial activity, present in both soils. Unimodal distribution patterns of Zn, Pb and organic C in size-fractions were found in horizons of the CA soil. In contrast, bimodal patterns were observed in the PP soil, because large amounts of Zn and Pb were also demonstrated in stable larger micro-aggregates (50–100-µm fractions). Such differing distribution patterns characterized all those horizons markedly influenced by earthworm activity. Larger earthworm activity coincided with larger metal EDTA-extractability, particularly of Pb. Hence, land use-related biological activity leads to specific soil microstructures affecting metal distribution and extractability, both in surface and subsurface horizons
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-524
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Volume61
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • organic-matter
  • earthworm activity
  • heavy-metals
  • fractionation
  • bioavailability
  • extraction
  • turnover
  • tillage
  • casts
  • clay

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