The influence of vegetation and soil type on the speciation of iron in soil water

Authors

  • S. C. Löhr,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Earth, Environment and Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane 4001, Australia
    2. School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide 5005, Australia
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  • M. E. Cox

    1. School of Earth, Environment and Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane 4001, Australia
    2. National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane 4001, Australia
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S. C. Löhr. E-mail: stefan.loehr@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

Soluble organic matter derived from exotic Pinus species has been shown to form stronger complexes with iron (Fe) than that derived from most native Australian species. It has also been proposed that the establishment of exotic Pinus plantations in coastal southeast Queensland may have enhanced the solubility of Fe in soils by increasing the amount of organically complexed Fe, but this remains inconclusive. In this study we test whether the concentration and speciation of Fe in soil water from Pinus plantations differs significantly from soil water from native vegetation areas. Both Fe redox speciation and the interaction between Fe and dissolved organic matter (DOM) were considered; Fe – DOM interaction was assessed using the Stockholm Humic Model. Iron concentrations (mainly Fe2+) were greatest in the soil waters with the greatest DOM content collected from sandy podosols (Podzols), where they are largely controlled by redox potential. Iron concentrations were small in soil waters from clay and iron oxide-rich soils, in spite of similar redox potentials. This condition is related to stronger sorption on to the reactive clay and iron oxide mineral surfaces in these soils, which reduces the amount of DOM available for electron shuttling and microbial metabolism, restricting reductive dissolution of Fe. Vegetation type had no significant influence on the concentration and speciation of iron in soil waters, although DOM from Pinus sites had greater acidic functional group site densities than DOM from native vegetation sites. This is because Fe is mainly in the ferrous form, even in samples from the relatively well-drained podosols. However, modelling suggests that Pinus DOM can significantly increase the amount of truly dissolved ferric iron remaining in solution in oxic conditions. Therefore, the input of ferrous iron together with Pinus DOM to surface waters may reduce precipitation of hydrous ferric oxides (ferrihydrite) and increase the flux of dissolved Fe out of the catchment. Such inputs of iron are most probably derived from podosols planted with Pinus.

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