Technical note: Uncovering the influence of methodological variations on the extractability of iron-bound organic carbon

Fisher, Ben J.; Faust, Johan C.; Moore, Oliver W.; Peacock, Caroline L.; März, Christian

Association of organic carbon (OC) with reactive iron (Feinline-formulaR) represents an important mechanism by which OC is protected against remineralisation in soils and marine sediments. Recent studies indicate that the molecular structure of organic compounds and/or the identity of associated Feinline-formulaR phases exert a control on the ability of an OC–Feinline-formulaR complex to be extracted by the citrate–bicarbonate–dithionite (CBD) method. However, many variations of the CBD extraction are used, and these are often uncalibrated to each other, rendering comparisons of OC–Feinline-formulaR values extracted via the different methods impossible. Here, we created synthetic ferrihydrite samples coprecipitated with simple organic structures and subjected these to modifications of the most common CBD method. We altered some of the method parameters (reagent concentration, time of the extraction and sample preparation methods) and measured Feinline-formulaR recovery to determine which (if any) modifications affected the release of Feinline-formulaR from the synthetic sample. We provide an assessment of the reducing capacity of Na dithionite in the CBD method (the amount of Fe reduced by a fixed amount of dithionite) and find that the concentration of dithionite deployed can limit OC–Feinline-formulaR extractability for sediments with a high Feinline-formulaR content. Additionally, we show that extending the length of any CBD extraction offers no benefit in removing Feinline-formulaR. Moreover, we demonstrate that for synthetic OC–Feinline-formulaR samples dominated by ferrihydrite, freeze-drying samples can significantly reduce OC–Feinline-formulaR extractability; this appears to be less of an issue for natural marine sediments where natural ageing mechanisms may mimic the freeze-drying process for more stable Fe phases. While our study is not an all-inclusive method comparison and is not aimed at delivering the “perfect” extraction setup, our findings provide a collected summary of critical factors which influence the efficiency of the CBD extraction for OC–Feinline-formulaR. As such, we provide a platform from which OC–Feinline-formulaR values obtained under different methods can be interpreted and future studies of sediment carbon cycling can build upon.

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Fisher, Ben J. / Faust, Johan C. / Moore, Oliver W. / et al: Technical note: Uncovering the influence of methodological variations on the extractability of iron-bound organic carbon. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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