The mobility and bioavailability of toxic Hg(II) in the environment strongly depends on its interactions with natural organic matter (NOM) and mineral surfaces. Using an enriched stable isotope approach, we investigated the exchange of Hg(II) between dissolved species (inorganically complexed or cysteine-, EDTA-, or NOM-bound) and solid-bound Hg(II) (carboxyl-/thiol-resin or goethite) over 30 days under constant conditions (pH, Hg and ligand concentrations). The Hg(II)-exchange was initially fast, followed by a slower phase, and depended on the properties of the dissolved ligands and sorbents. The results were described by a kinetic model allowing the simultaneous determination of adsorption and desorption rate coefficients. The time scales required to reach equilibrium with the carboxyl-resin varied greatly from 1.2 days for Hg(OH)2 to 16 days for Hg(II)-cysteine complexes and approximately 250 days for EDTA-bound Hg(II). Other experiments could not be described by an equilibrium model, suggesting that a significant fraction of total-bound Hg was present in a non-exchangeable form (thiol-resin and NOM: 53-58%; goethite: 22-29%). Based on the slow and incomplete exchange of Hg(II) described in this study, we suggest that kinetic effects must be considered to a greater extent in the assessment of the fate of Hg in the environment and the design of experimental studies, for example, for stability constant determination or metal isotope fractionation during sorption.
Mass-dependent fractionation (MDF) and mass-independent fractionation (MIF) of Hg isotopes provides a new tool for tracing Hg in contaminated environments such as mining sites, which represent major point sources of Hg pollution into surrounding ecosystems. Here, we present Hg isotope ratios of unroasted ore waste, calcine (roasted ore), and poplar leaves collected at a closed Hg mine (New Idria, CA, U.S.A.). Unroasted ore waste was isotopically uniform with ?(202)Hg values from -0.09 to 0.16‰ (± 0.10‰, 2 SD), close to the estimated initial composition of the HgS ore (-0.26‰). In contrast, calcine samples exhibited variable ?(202)Hg values ranging from -1.91‰ to +2.10‰. Small MIF signatures in the calcine were consistent with nuclear volume fractionation of Hg isotopes during or after the roasting process. The poplar leaves exhibited negative MDF (-3.18 to -1.22‰) and small positive MIF values (?(199)Hg of 0.02 to 0.21‰). Sequential extractions combined with Hg isotope analysis revealed higher ?(202)Hg values for the more soluble Hg pools in calcines compared with residual HgS phases. Our data provide novel insights into possible in situ transformations of Hg phases and suggest that isotopically heavy secondary Hg phases were formed in the calcine, which will influence the isotope composition of Hg leached from the site.
The potential of stable Fe isotopes as a tracer for the biogeochemical Fe cycle depends on the understanding and quantification of the fractionation processes involved. Iron uptake and cycling by plants may influence Fe speciation in soils. Here, we determined the Fe isotopic composition of different plant parts including the complete root system of three alpine plant species (Oxyria digyna, Rumex scutatus, Agrostis gigantea) in a granitic glacier forefield, which allowed us, for the first time, to distinguish between uptake and in-plant fractionation processes. The overall range of fractionation was 4.5 per thousand in delta(56)Fe. Mass balance calculations demonstrated that fractionation toward lighter Fe isotopic composition occurred in two steps during uptake: (1) before active uptake, probably during mineral dissolution and (2) during selective uptake of Fe at the plasma membrane with an enrichment factor of -1.0 to -1.7 per thousand for all three species. Iron isotopes were further fractionated during remobilization from old into new plant tissue, which changed the isotopic composition of leaves and flowers over the season. This study demonstrates the potential of Fe isotopes as a new tool in plant nutrition studies but also reveals challenges for the future application of Fe isotope signatures in soil-plant environments.
Stable Hg isotope ratios provide a new tool to trace environmental Hg cycling. Thiols (-SH) are the dominant Hg-binding groups in natural organic matter. Here, we report experimental and computational results on equilibrium Hg isotope fractionation between dissolved Hg(II) species and thiol-bound Hg. Hg(II) chloride and nitrate solutions were equilibrated in parallel batches with varying amounts of thiol resin resulting in different fractions of thiol-bound and free Hg. Mercury isotope ratios in both fractions were analyzed by multiple collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (MC-ICPMS). Theoretical equilibrium Hg isotope effects by mass-dependent fractionation (MDF) and nuclear volume fractionation (NVF) were calculated for 14 relevant Hg(II) species. The experimental data revealed that thiol-bound Hg was enriched in light Hg isotopes by 0.53 per thousand and 0.62 per thousand (delta(202)Hg) relative to HgCl(2) and Hg(OH)(2), respectively. The computational results were in excellent agreement with the experimental data indicating that a combination of MDF and NVF was responsible for the observed Hg isotope fractionation. Small mass-independent fractionation (MIF) effects (<0.1 per thousand) were observed representing one of the first experimental evidences for MIF of Hg isotopes by NVF. Our results indicate that significant equilibrium Hg isotope fractionation can occur without redox transition, and that NVF must be considered in addition to MDF to explain Hg isotope variations.
The application of Hg isotope signatures as tracers for environmental Hg cycling requires the determination of isotope fractionation factors and mechanisms for individual processes. Here, we investigated Hg isotope fractionation of Hg(II) sorption to goethite in batch systems under different experimental conditions. We observed a mass-dependent enrichment of light Hg isotopes on the goethite surface relative to dissolved Hg (?(202)Hg of -0.30‰ to -0.44‰) which was independent of the pH, chloride and sulfate concentration, type of surface complex, and equilibration time. Based on previous theoretical equilibrium fractionation factors, we propose that Hg isotope fractionation of Hg(II) sorption to goethite is controlled by an equilibrium isotope effect between Hg(II) solution species, expressed on the mineral surface by the adsorption of the cationic solution species. In contrast, the formation of outer-sphere complexes and subsequent conformation changes to different inner-sphere complexes appeared to have insignificant effects on the observed isotope fractionation. Our findings emphasize the importance of solution speciation in metal isotope sorption studies and suggest that the dissolved Hg(II) pool in soils and sediments, which is the most mobile and bioavailable, should be isotopically heavy, as light Hg isotopes are preferentially sequestered during binding to both mineral phases and natural organic matter.
The compositions of Earth materials are strikingly similar to those of enstatite chondrite meteorites in many isotope systems. Although this suggests that Earth largely accreted from enstatite chondrites, definitive proof of this model has been lacking. By comparing the silicon (Si) isotope signatures of several extraterrestrial materials with terrestrial samples, we show that they cannot be explained by core-formation scenarios involving a bulk Earth of enstatite chondrite composition. Si isotope similarities between the bulk silicate Earth and the Moon preclude the existence of a hidden reservoir in the lower mantle, a necessary condition of the enstatite chondrite model, and require an equilibrium process after the Moon-forming impact. A three-end-member chondritic mixing model for Earth reconciles the Si isotope similarities between enstatite chondrites and Earth.
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