Arsenic in acid sulfate soil (ASS) landscapes commonly associates with schwertmannite, a poorly crystalline Fe(III) mineral. Fires in ASS landscapes can thermally transform Fe(III) minerals to more crystalline phases, such as maghemite (γFe2O3). Although thermal genesis of maghemite requires electron transfer via organic matter pyrolysis, the possibility of fire causing concurrent transfer of electrons to schwertmannite-bound As(V) remains unexplored. Here, we subject an organic-rich soil with variable carbon content (∼9–44% organic C) mixed (4:1) with As(V)-bearing schwertmannite (total As of 4.7–5.4 μmol g−1), to various temperatures (200–800 °C) and heating durations (5–120 min). We explore the consequences for As and Fe via X-ray absorption spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, 57Fe Mössbauer spectroscopy and selective extracts. Heating transforms schwertmannite to mainly maghemite and hematite at temperatures above 300–400 °C, with some transitory formation of magnetite, and electrons are readily transferred to both Fe(III) and As(V). As(V) reduction to As(III) is influenced by a combination of temperature, heating duration and carbon content and is significantly (P < 0.05) positively correlated with Fe(II) formation. During 2 h heating, higher carbon content favours greater As(III) and Fe(II) formation, while peak As(III) formation (∼44–70%) occurs at relatively modest temperatures (300 °C) and diminishes at higher temperatures. Kinetic heating experiments reveal fast maximum As(III) formation (∼90%) within 5–10 min at 400–600 °C, followed by partial re-oxidation to As(V) thereafter. In contrast, heating As(V)-schwertmannite in the absence of soil-organic matter did not cause reduction of As(V) or Fe(III), nor form maghemite; thus highlighting the critical role of organic matter as an electron donor. Importantly, combusted organic soil-schwertmannite mixtures display greatly enhanced mobilisation of As(III)aq species within 1 h of re-wetting with water. The magnitude of As(III)aq mobilisation is positively correlated with solid-phase As(III) formation. Overall, the results suggest that moderate fires in ASS landscapes, even of short duration, may generate considerable labile As(III) species and cause a pulse of As(III)aq mobilisation following initial re-wetting. Further research is warranted to examine if analogous As(III) formation occurs during combustion of organic-rich soil containing common As-bearing Fe(III) minerals such as ferrihydrite and goethite.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta – Elsevier
Published: Apr 15, 2018
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