Concept: Organic matter
Feasibility of soil washing to remediate Hg contaminated soil was studied. Dry sieving was performed to evaluate Hg distribution in soil particle size fractions. The influence of dissolved organic matter and chlorides on Hg dissolution was assessed by batch leaching tests. Mercury mobilization in the pH range of 3-11 was studied by pH-static titration. Results showed infeasibility of physical separation via dry sieving, as the least contaminated fraction exceeded the Swedish generic guideline value for Hg in soils. Soluble Hg did not correlate with dissolved organic carbon in the water leachate. The highest Hg dissolution was achieved at pH 5 and 11, reaching up to 0.3% of the total Hg. The pH adjustment was therefore not sufficient for the Hg removal to acceptable levels. Chlorides did not facilitate Hg mobilization under acidic pH either. Mercury was firmly bound in the studied soil thus soil washing might be insufficient method to treat the studied soil.
Subaerial endolithic systems of the current extreme environments on Earth provide exclusive insight into emergence and development of soils in the Precambrian when due to various stresses on the surfaces of hard rocks the cryptic niches inside them were much more plausible habitats for organisms than epilithic ones. Using an actualistic approach we demonstrate that transformation of silicate rocks by endolithic organisms is one of the possible pathways for the beginning of soils on Earth. This process led to the formation of soil-like bodies on rocks in situ and contributed to the raise of complexity in subaerial geosystems. Endolithic systems of East Antarctica lack the noise from vascular plants and are among the best available natural models to explore organo-mineral interactions of a very old “phylogenetic age” (cyanobacteria-to-mineral, fungi-to-mineral, lichen-to-mineral). On the basis of our case study from East Antarctica we demonstrate that relatively simple endolithic systems of microbial and/or cryptogamic origin that exist and replicate on Earth over geological time scales employ the principles of organic matter stabilization strikingly similar to those known for modern full-scale soils of various climates.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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