The Organic Matter Molecular Characteristics of Pyrogenic Solids and Their Aqueous Leachable Fractions

Andrew S Wozniak1, Patrick G Hatcher2, Siddhartha Mitra3, Kyle Wyman Bostick4 and Andrew R Zimmerman4, (1)School of Marine Science and Policy, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE, United States, (2)Old Dominion University, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Norfolk, VA, United States, (3)East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, United States, (4)University of Florida, Department of Geological Sciences, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States
Pyrogenic organic matter (Py-OM), or black carbon (BC), derives from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass and is recognized for its impacts on soil chemistry, pollutant transport, climate, and regional and global carbon cycling. In fact, Py-OM is commonly applied to agricultural plots, in the form of “biochars,” with the intention of enhancing agricultural production and the expectation of a carbon sequestration side benefit due to Py-OM’s refractory and immobile nature. However, several studies of riverine, estuarine, and oceanic waters have detected tracers of dissolved Py-OM in appreciable quantities suggesting that it is more mobile in the environment than previously expected. The quantities and impacts of Py-OM released to aqueous systems are likely dependent on Py-OM molecular characteristics which in turn likely depend on initial combustion conditions and environmental processing. Yet, very little is known about the detailed molecular composition of these materials, let alone their relationships with combustion and environmental processing. Here, pyrophosphate extractable and water leachable components of a range of Py-OM materials (natural charcoals aged in the environment for variable lengths of time, oak and grass combusted over a range of temperatures) are examined by Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry. The molecular characteristics of the dissolved and pyrophosphate extractable Py-OM is then compared in the context of production conditions. Results of this study will greatly improve our understanding of Py-OM cycling between watersheds and the oceans.