Sulfur Speciation in Peat: a Time-zero Signature for the " Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climate and Environmental Change" Experiment

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Olha Furman1, Brandy M Toner1, Stephen D Sebestyen2, Randy K Kolka2 and Edward A Nater1, (1)Univ of MN /Soil Water&Climate, St. Paul, MN, United States, (2)USDA Forest Service, Grand Rapids, MN, United States
As part of the “Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climate and Environmental Change” (SPRUCE) experiment, we made initial measurements of sulfur speciation in peat. These observations represent a “time-zero” relative to the intended soil warming experiment which begins in 2015. Total sulfur and sulfur speciation were measured in peat cores (solid phase) from nine plots (hollows and hummocks) to a depth of 2 m. Peat samples were packed under nitrogen and frozen in the field immediately after collection. All subsequent sample storage, handling, and processing were conducted under inert gas. Sulfur speciation was measured using bulk sulfur 1s X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy at the SXRMB instrument at the Canadian Light Source, Saskatoon, SK, Canada and at the 9-BM instrument, Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory, IL, USA. Total sulfur concentrations ranged from 968 to 4077 mg sulfur / kg dry peat. Sulfur content increased with depth from 2 g sulfur / m2 in the 0-10 cm increment to a maximum value of 38 g sulfur / m2 in the 50-60 cm increment. These sulfur loadings produced high quality XANES spectra. The nine cores exhibited reproducible trends with depth in both total sulfur and specific sulfur species; however, variability in sulfur speciation was greatest in the top 40 cm. All sulfur detected within the peat solids was in an organic form. The most abundant sulfur species group was composed of organic mono-sulfide and thiol forms, representing approximately half of the total sulfur at all depths. Sulfonate and ester-sulfate species were 10-15 mol% of sulfur and exhibited low variability with depth.  A subsurface maximum in organic di-sulfide was observed in the 20-30 cm depth increment, which is the transition zone between transiently oxidized acrotelm and permanently saturated anaerobic catotelm. Quantification of major sulfur pools is important for the SPRUCE experiment as they are likely to be indicators of changes in the oxidation-reduction (redox) status, and mercury methylation potential, of the peat in response to warming and enhanced carbon dioxide.