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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Significance of phosphorus inclusions and discrete micron-sized grains of apatite in postglacial forest soils

Adediran, Gbotemi A.; Kielman-Schmitt, Melanie; Kooijman, Ellen; Gustafsson, Jon-Petter


Recent advances in soil phosphorus (P) studies have revealed unique P hot spots and discrete micron-sized grains at soil microsites, but the significance of these so-called 'hot spots' and grains in P cycling and long-term supply is yet to be determined. We examined soil particles and pore space distribution at a micro-scale in two postglacial forest soils by laser ablation ICP-MS imaging. This allowed us to semi-quantitatively reveal both axial and lateral abundance, distribution, and co-localization of P with elements known to influence its chemical speciation (e.g., Si, Al, Mn, Ca, and Fe). The results show topsoil P to be co-localised predominantly with Si, Al, and Fe. However, in the subsoils, P was co-localised mainly with Ca, Si, Al, and Mg in spots within Si and Al-bearing minerals and with only Ca in discrete micron-sized grains. While the spots of P-Ca inclusions were similar to 1000 mu m apart and present at 40-100 cm depth in Tarnsjo, the discrete grains of P-Ca were similar to 700-1200 mu m apart and present at 90-100 cm depth in Tonnersjoheden. The P concentrations in these 'hot spots' and grains were 7 to 600 times greater than the average soil P concentrations, with the highest values (3434-8716 mmol P kg(-1)) occurring in the C horizons of the two soils. When combined with previous P speciation results obtained by synchrotron P K-edge XANES in the same soils, our work confirms geogenic apatite to have been dissolved in the topsoil and its P transformed to P adsorbed by Al-Si and Fe phases, and to organic P. Most importantly, our work shows subsoil spots of P-Ca inclusions and micron-sized grains to be a long-term source of P and Ca. Highlights The significance of high-P spots and discrete grains to long-term P supply is largely unknown. For the first time, P concentration and speciation was resolved by LA-ICP-MS multi-elemental analysis. The P spots exist as dispersed apatite inclusions and micron-sized grains in the subsoil. P in these spots and grains were up to 600 times greater than the bulk soil P concentrations.


apatite inclusions; chemical speciation; discrete particles; elemental co-localizations; LA-ICP-MS imaging; phosphorus cycling

Published in

European Journal of Soil Science
2022, Volume: 73, number: 5, article number: e13310
Publisher: WILEY