Soluble Iron as an In Situ Indicator of the Redox State of Humic Substances in Arctic Soil: Implications for Seasonal Regeneration of Oxidized Terminal Electron Acceptors
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Ferric iron (Fe(III)) and humic substances (HS) are important terminal electron acceptors for anaerobic respiration in wet tundra soils of the Arctic Coastal Plain near Barrow, Alaska. These soils are rich in both solid phase Fe minerals (including oxides such as ferrihydrite and goethite and other minerals with reduced or mixed valence such as siderite and magnetite) and soluble Fe, chelated by siderophores and other small organic molecules. This latter pool may also include nanocolloidal Fe: extremely fine-grained minerals that pass through a 0.2 micron filter. Both the solid phase and aqueous Fe pools undergo seasonal changes in redox state as a result of biological reduction by Fe-reducing microorganisms and oxidation by a variety of potential mechanisms, both abiotic and biotic. These redox cycles of solid and aqueous pools are not in phase: solid phase Fe became progressively more reduced from mid- to late summer, while aqueous phase Fe became reduced over the first half of the summer. It is well-known that HS interact with Fe, and that HS can act as electron shuttles in the reduction of Fe oxides. In other ecosystems chelated Fe(III) has been incubated with soil samples and the resulting Fe(II) produced is used as an indicator of the reducing power of HS. In these Fe-rich Arctic soils, HS are continuously in contact with chelated Fe, and therefore we interpret the redox state of this pool as an indicator of HS redox status. To verify this we conducted redox titrations of extracted HS with both reduced and oxidized Fe chelates and showed that chelated Fe could interact with HS both as electron acceptor and donator. In a field experiment, the addition of oxidized humic acids to soils resulted in an immediate oxidation of the aqueous Fe pool within 24 hours, which we attribute to abiotic oxidation of Fe by HS, followed by a slow reduction of this pool over the next week, presumably due to biological Fe reduction of the HS/aqueous Fe pool. At the end of summer 2010, both the solid-phase and aqueous Fe pools were in a mostly reduced state. At the beginning of summer 2011, the solid phase Fe pool was unchanged but aqueous Fe was re-oxidized. Several mechanisms for the reoxidation of the HS/aqueous Fe pool during the shoulder seasons and/or winter will be explored.