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Using stable and radioactive isotopes to trace atmospherically deposited Pb in Montane forest soils

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Atmospheric deposition of lead (Pb) throughout the 1900s resulted in elevated amounts of this toxic metal even in remote forest soils of the northeastern United States. Soils can act as a net sink for metals and thus minimize groundwater and surface water contamination. Recent studies utilizing forest floor temporal data and models of total Pb in precipitation, surface soils, and streams have estimated the time scale of Pb release from soils. However, due to the limited availability and spatial variability of forest floor survey data, other methods for quantifying anthropogenic Pb movement are needed. This study uses the isotopic composition (206pb/207Pb) of soil Pb and measurements of 210Pb and 226Ra to directly trace the transit of atmospherically deposited Pb in the soil profile. We also report on the recovery of an enriched 207Pb dose applied in 1984 to the surface of a soil plot in the coniferous forest at Camels Hump in Vermont. The isotopic composition of soil Pb in low elevation deciduous forests suggests that approximately 65% of the original atmospheric Pb load has migrated from the forest floor to the upper 10 cm of the mineral soil. Higher elevation sites with coniferous vegetation have thicker forest floors, which have prevented significant amounts of Pb from entering the mineral soil. After 17 years, the soil organic horizon in the coniferous zone prevented any penetration of the applied Pb into the mineral soil. Using 210Pb budgets in different soil compartments, we determine forest floor response times for atmospherically delivered Pb to be approximately 60 years in the low elevation deciduous forest zone and 150 years for the high elevation spruce-fir forest zone at Camels Hump. According to its distribution in the soil profile, we conclude that a dispersed release of anthropogenic Pb to groundwater and surface water is possible this century. Our results also offer independent confirmation of Pb deposition models previously generated for the region.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftEnvironmental Science and Technology
Vol/bind37
Udgave nummer16
Sider (fra-til)3560-3567
Antal sider8
ISSN0013-936X
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 15 aug. 2003

ID: 199497830