Influence of biochar amendments on marine sediment trace metal bioavailability

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Gretchen E Gehrke and Heileen Hsu-Kim, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States
Biochar has become a desirable material for use in agricultural application to enhance soil quality and in-situ soil and sediment remediation to immobilize organic contaminants. We investigated the effects of biochar sediment amendments on the bioavailability of a suite of inorganic trace metals (Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Pb) in contaminated sediments from multiple sites in Elizabeth River, VA. We incubated sediments in microcosms with a variety of water column redox and salinity conditions and compared sediments amended with two types of woody biochar to sediments amended with charcoal activated carbon and unamended sediments. We leached sediments in artificial gut fluid mimic of the benthic invertebrate Arenicola marina as a measure of bioavailability of the trace metals analyzed. In unamended anaerobic sediments, the gut fluid mimic leachable fraction of each trace metal is 1-4% of the total sediment concentration for each metal. Initial results indicate that in anaerobic microcosms, woody biochar sediment amendments (added to 5% dry wt) decrease the gut fluid mimic leachable fraction by 30-90% for all trace metals analyzed, and have comparable performance to charcoal activated carbon amendments. However, in microcosms without controlled redox conditions, woody biochar amendments increase the bioavailable fraction of Ni and Cu by up to 80%, while decreasing the bioavailable fraction of Co, Zn, and Pb by approximately 50%; charcoal activated carbon amendments decreased the bioavailability of all trace metals analyzed by approximately 20%. In microcosms without an overlying water column, biochar and activated carbon amendments had no significant effects on trace metal bioavailability. This research demonstrates that biochar can effectively decrease the bioavailability of trace metals in marine sediments, but its efficiency is metal-specific, and environmental conditions impact biochar performance.