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Research article2010Peer reviewedOpen access

Acid-base and copper-binding properties of three organic matter fractions isolated from a forest floor soil solution

Van Schaik, Joris; Berggren Kleja, Dan; Gustafsson, Jon-Petter


Vast amounts of knowledge about the proton- and metal-binding properties of dissolved organic matter (DOM) in natural waters have been obtained in studies on isolated humic and fulvic (hydrophobic) acids. Although macromolecular hydrophilic acids normally make up about one-third of DOM, their proton- and metal-binding properties are poorly known. Here, we investigated the acid-base and Cu-binding properties of the hydrophobic (fulvic) acid fraction and two hydrophilic fractions isolated from a soil solution. Proton titrations revealed a higher total charge for the hydrophilic acid fractions than for the hydrophobic acid fraction. The most hydrophilic fraction appeared to be dominated by weak acid sites, as evidenced by increased slope of the curve of surface charge versus pH at pH values above 6. The titration curves were poorly predicted by both Stockholm Humic Model (SHM) and NTCA-Donnan model calculations using generic parameter values, but could be modelled accurately after optimisation of the proton-binding parameters (pH <= 9). Cu-binding isotherms for the three fractions were determined at pH values of 4, 6 and 9. With the optimised proton-binding parameters, the SHM model predictions for Cu binding improved, whereas the NICA-Donnan predictions deteriorated. After optimisation of Cu-binding parameters, both models described the experimental data satisfactorily. Iron(III) and aluminium competed strongly with Cu for binding sites at both pH 4 and pH 6. The SHM model predicted this competition reasonably well, but the NICA-Donnan model underestimated the effects significantly at pH 6. Overall, the Cu-binding behaviour of the two hydrophilic acid fractions was very similar to that of the hydrophobic acid fraction, despite the differences observed in proton-binding characteristics. These results show that for modelling purposes, it is essential to include the hydrophilic acid fraction in the pool of 'active' humic substances. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Published in

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
2010, Volume: 74, number: 4, pages: 1391-1406