Arsenic retention and release in ombrotrophic peatlands

J. J. Rothwell, K. G. Taylor, E. L. Ander, M. G. Evans, S. M. Daniels, T. E H Allott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organic matter can play an important role in the mobility and fate of As in the environment, but there is a lack of data on As biogeochemistry in ombrotrophic peatlands. The aim of this study was to investigate As retention and release in atmospherically contaminated ombrotrophic peat soils in the Peak District National Park (UK). Solid phase As concentrations in the peat soils exceed 25 mg kg- 1. Solid phase As and Fe concentrations are closely correlated at sites where the peat is subjected to drying and oxic conditions. In a wetter zone of the bog, solid phase As and Fe distributions are decoupled, suggesting that As retention in these systems is not solely controlled by the presence of Fe oxides. Comparison of solid phase As and Pb distributions reveals that As has been subjected to post-depositional mobility in areas of water table fluctuation. Conversely, at permanently waterlogged locations As is immobile. Detailed stream water sampling reveals that As is released from the organic-rich uplands soils into the fluvial system. Dissolved As concentrations are highly variable, with values ranging from 0.20 to 7.28 μg l- 1. Stream water As concentrations are elevated during late summer stormflow periods when there has been re-wetting of the peat after significant water table draw-down. Dissolved As is strongly correlated to dissolved organic carbon under stormflow and baseflow. The results of this study suggest that organic matter plays an important role in As dynamics in ombrotrophic peatlands, but further work is needed to identify the exact As binding and release mechanisms. Drying and re-wetting of ombrotrophic peat soils and associated changes in redox status has the potential to lead to increased As mobility. Further work is needed to provide information on how predicted climate change will influence As cycling at sites containing a legacy of atmospheric contamination. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1417
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2009


  • Arsenic
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Mobility
  • Organic matter
  • Peat
  • Stream water


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