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Concept: Organic matter


Paleoenvironmental records from a southern California coastal saltmarsh reveal evidence for repeated late Holocene coseismic subsidence events. Field analysis of sediment gouge cores established discrete lithostratigraphic units extend across the wetland. Detailed sediment analyses reveal abrupt changes in lithology, percent total organic matter, grain size, and magnetic susceptibility. Microfossil analyses indicate that predominantly freshwater deposits bury relic intertidal deposits at three distinct depths. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the three burial events occurred in the last 2000 calendar years. Two of the three events are contemporaneous with large-magnitude paleoearthquakes along the Newport-Inglewood/Rose Canyon fault system. From these data, we infer that during large magnitude earthquakes a step-over along the fault zone results in the vertical displacement of an approximately 5-km(2) area that is consistent with the footprint of an estuary identified in pre-development maps. These findings provide insight on the evolution of the saltmarsh, coseismic deformation and earthquake recurrence in a wide area of southern California, and sensitive habitat already threatened by eustatic sea level rise.

Concepts: Water, Sea level, Oceanography, Geology, Earthquake, Organic matter, Cartography, Fault


Impact ejected rocks are targets for life detection missions to Mars. The Martian subsurface is more favourable to organic preservation than the surface owing to an attenuation of radiation and physical separation from oxidising materials with increasing depth. Impact events bring materials to the surface where they may be accessed without complicated drilling procedures. On Earth, different assemblages of organic matter types are derived from varying depositional environments. Here we assess whether these different types of organic materials can survive impact events without corruption. We subjected four terrestrial organic matter types to elevated pressures and temperatures in piston-cylinder experiments followed by chemical characterisation using whole-rock pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Our data reveal that long chain hydrocarbon-dominated organic matter (types I and II; mainly microbial or algal) are unresistant to pressure whereas aromatic hydrocarbon-dominated organic matter types (types III and IV; mainly land plant, metamorphosed or degraded, displaying some superficial chemical similarities to abiotic meteoritic organic matter) are relatively resistant. This suggests that the impact excavated record of potential biology on Mars will be unavoidably biased, with microbial organic matter underrepresented while metamorphosed, degraded or abiotic meteoritic organic matter types will be selectively preserved.

Concepts: Chemistry, Mars, Thermodynamics, Impact event, Humus, Organic matter, Meteorite, Biotic material


This study identifies factors affecting the fate of buried objects in soil and develops a method for assessing where preservation of different materials and stratigraphic evidence is more or less likely in the landscape. The results inform the extent of the cultural service that soil supports by preserving artefacts from and information about past societies. They are also relevant to predicting the state of existing and planned buried infrastructure and the persistence of materials spread on land. Soils are variable and preserve different materials and stratigraphic evidence differently. This study identifies the material and soil properties that affect preservation and relates these to soil types; it assesses their preservation capacities for bones, teeth and shells, organic materials, metals (Au, Ag, Cu, Fe, Pb and bronze), ceramics, glass and stratigraphic evidence. Preservation of Au, Pb and ceramics, glass and phytoliths is good in most soils but degradation rates of other materials (e.g. Fe and organic materials) is strongly influenced by soil type. A method is proposed for using data on the distribution of soil types to map the variable preservation capacities of soil for different materials. This is applied at a continental scale across the EU for bones, teeth and shells, organic materials, metals (Cu, bronze and Fe) and stratigraphic evidence. The maps produced demonstrate how soil provides an extensive but variable preservation of buried objects.

Concepts: Soil, Zinc, Copper, Humus, Organic matter, Soil classification


Biological substances based on proteins, including vaccines, antibodies, and enzymes, typically degrade at room temperature over time due to denaturation, as proteins unfold with loss of secondary and tertiary structure. Their storage and distribution therefore relies on a “cold chain” of continuous refrigeration; this is costly and not always effective, as any break in the chain leads to rapid loss of effectiveness and potency. Efforts have been made to make vaccines thermally stable using treatments including freeze-drying (lyophilisation), biomineralisation, and encapsulation in sugar glass and organic polymers. Here for the first time we show that proteins can be enclosed in a deposited silica “cage”, rendering them stable against denaturing thermal treatment and long-term ambient-temperature storage, and subsequently released into solution with their structure and function intact. This “ensilication” method produces a storable solid protein-loaded material without the need for desiccation or freeze-drying. Ensilication offers the prospect of a solution to the “cold chain” problem for biological materials, in particular for vaccines.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Amino acid, Molecular biology, Temperature, Quaternary structure, Organic matter, Release


Eco-toxicological or bioassay tests have been intensively discussed as tools for the evaluation of soil quality. Tests using soil organisms, including microarthropods and plants, allow direct estimates to be made of important soil characteristics and functions. In this study we compared the results obtained by two in vitro standard bioassays following ISO or OECD guidelines: (i) the short term-chronic phytotoxicity germination and root elongation test using three different plant species Cucumis sativus L. (Cucurbitaceae), Lepidium sativum L. (Brassicaceae), and Medicago sativa L. (Fabaceae) and (ii) the inhibition of reproduction of Folsomia candida (Collembola) by soil pollutants to investigate the toxicity of a serpentine soil present in the Italian Apennines, rich in heavy metals such as Ni, Cr, and Co. In addition, microarthropod communities were characterised to evaluate the effects of metal contents on the soil fauna in natural conditions. Abundances, Acari/Collembola ratio, biodiversity indices and the QBS-ar index were calculated. Our results demonstrate that the two in vitro tests distinguish differences correlated with metal and organic matter contents in four sub-sites within the serpentinite. Soil fauna characterisation, not previously performed on serpentine soils, revealed differences in the most vulnerable and adapted groups of microarthropods to soil among the four sub-sites: the microarthropod community was found to be rich in term of biodiversity in the sub-site characterised by a lower metal content and a higher organic matter content and vegetation.

Concepts: Plant, Soil, Heavy metal music, Humus, Organic matter, Cannabis sativa, Serpentine group, Serpentine soil


The significance of natural organic matter (NOM, both humic acid and alginate) on the transport and deposition kinetics of ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) in irregular quartz sand was examined by direct comparison of both breakthrough curves and retained profiles with NOM present in NPs suspension versus those obtained without NOM. Packed column experiments were conducted in both NaCl and CaCl(2) solutions under a series of environmentally relevant ionic strengths. Under all examined conditions, breakthrough plateaus with NOM even at concentration as low as 1 mg L(-1) of total organic carbon (TOC) were higher than those without NOM, indicating that presence of NOM in NPs suspensions enhanced ZnO NPs transport. Although hyper-exponential retained profiles were observed both in the presence and absence of NOM, the amount of retained ZnO NPs acquired in the presence of NOM decreased slowly as the transport distance increased. Straining induced by concurrent aggregation is found to cause the hyper-exponential decrease. In the presence of NOM, electrosteric interaction effectively reduced the ZnO NPs deposition on collector surfaces and NPs-NPs aggregation. Subsequently, the amount of NPs that jammed in the column inlet in the absence of NOM were markedly decreased, which therefore exhibited as flatter retained profiles.

Concepts: Soil, Zinc, Organic chemistry, Humus, Humic acid, Organic matter, Natural organic matter, Total organic carbon


Interactions of organic pollutants with soil organic matter can be studied by adsorption of the pollutants on well-characterized soil samples with constant mineralogy but different organic matter compositions. Therefore, the objectives of the current study are establishing a set of different, well-characterized soil samples by systematic modifications of their organic matter content and molecular composition and prove these modifications by advanced complementary analytical techniques. Modifications were done by off-line pyrolysis and removal/addition of hot-water extracted organic fraction (HWE) from/to the original soil sample. Both pyrolysis-field ionization mass spectrometry (Py-FIMS) and synchrotron-based C- and N- X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectroscopy (XANES) were applied to investigate the composition of the soil organic matter. These complementary analytical methods in addition to elemental analysis agreed in showing the following order of organic matter contents: pyrolyzed soil

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Soil, Analytical chemistry, Carboxylic acid, Organic chemistry, Organic compounds, Humus, Organic matter


The diatomite dynamic membrane (DDM) was utilized to dewater Chlorella pyrenoidosa of 2g dry weight/L under continuous-flow mode, whose ultimate algae concentration ranged from 43g to 22g dry weight/L of different culture time. The stable flux of DDM could reach 30L/m(2)h over a 24h operation time without backwash. Influences of extracellular organic matters (EOM) on filtration behavior and membrane fouling were studied. The DDM was divided into three sub-layers, the slime layer, the algae layer and the diatomite layer from the outside to the inside of the cake layer based on components and morphologies. It was found that EOM caused membrane fouling by accumulating in the slime and algae layers. The DDM intercepted polysaccharides, protein-like substances, humic-like substances and some low-MW organics. Proteins were indicated the major membrane foulants with increased protein/polysaccharide ratio from the slime layer to the diatomite layer as culture time increased. This method could be applied to subsequent treatment of microalgae coupling technology of wastewater treatment or microalgae harvesting for producing biofuel.

Concepts: Algae, Bacteria, Cell membrane, Layer, Cellulose, Organic matter, Chlorella, Chlorella pyrenoidosa


This study investigated the effects of corrosion products of copper, a metal commonly employed in household plumbing systems, on N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) formation from a known NDMA precursor, dimethylamine (DMA). Copper-catalyzed NDMA formation increased with increasing copper concentrations, DMA concentrations, alkalinity and hardness, but decreased with increasing natural organic matter (NOM) concentration. pH influenced the speciation of chloramine and the interactions of copper with DMA. The transformation of monochloramine (NH2Cl) to dichloramine and complexation of copper with DMA were involved in elevating the formation of NDMA by copper at pH 7.0. The inhibiting effect of NOM on copper catalysis was attributed to the rapid consumption of NH2Cl by NOM and/or the competitive complexation of NOM with copper to limit the formation of DMA-copper complexes. Hardness ions, as represented by Ca(2+), also competed with copper for binding sites on NOM, thereby weakening the inhibitory effect of NOM on NDMA formation. Common copper corrosion products also participated in these reactions but in different ways. Aqueous copper released from malachite [Cu2CO3(OH)2] was shown to promote NDMA formation while NDMA formation decreased in the presence of CuO, most likely due to the adsorption of DMA.

Concepts: Concentration, Chemistry, Copper, Chloramine, Organic matter, Natural organic matter, Nitrogen trichloride, Dichloramine


The crop residues buried in semiarid soils as a carbon sink are evaluated. Both C-CO2 evolved and C sequestered from agricultural soils amended with barley straw were measured seasonally over 2 farming seasons in a semiarid environment (NE Spain). Six experimental soils with low organic matter content and contrasted properties were selected. The CO2 efflux, as a result of soil microbial activity, showed a significant seasonal variation according to changes in both soil moisture and temperature being the spring and early summer when respiration rates get higher. On annual average, more organic, calcareous soils, evolved higher carbon dioxide efflux (up to 53mg CO2/kg and day) than soils with high levels of gypsum or more soluble salts (up to 25mg CO2/kg and day), which have a lower percentage of organic carbon. Straw residue incorporation increases these CO2 emissions significantly for each soil type. Although CO2 emissions are significantly and negatively correlated with the C storage, straw addition increases soil organic C content, at the end of the period of study. In calcareous soils were stored up to 550kgC/ha and year, gypseous soils up to 1135kgC/ha and year and saline soils up to 1450kgC/ha and year. According to the amount of stored C in the different soil types, the isohumic coefficient of barley straw ranges from 0.087 to 0.259 (kg of humus formed from 1kg of dry straw).

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Soil, Season, Humus, Organic matter, Global warming, Deforestation