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Development and initial application of δ18Op to understand phosphorus cycling in river, lake and groundwater ecosystems.

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Publication date2014
Original languageEnglish


ConferenceEGU General Assembly 2014


Variation in the stable isotope composition of oxygen within dissolved phosphate (δ18Op) represents a novel and potentially powerful environmental tracer. In freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, δ18Op can act as an inherent label for the sources of phosphorus and the extent to which phosphorus from different sources is metabolised. This paper focuses on the methodological development and initial application of δ18Op across a range of freshwater ecosystems. Initially, we report modifications to the analytical protocol for δ18Op that are designed to minimise incorporation of contaminant oxygen in the final silver phosphate precipitate prior to pyrolysis. This is critical given the range of possible sources of contaminant oxygen within freshwater matrices. Subsequently, we consider the potential utility of δ18Op through application of the technique within a range of freshwater ecosystems in England, UK. Firstly, we characterise δ18Op in river water and effluents from Sewage Treatment Works (STW), and examine the opportunity to use the 18Op of STW effluents to trace the entry and downstream fate of phosphorus from these point sources in rivers. Secondly, we analyse δ18Op to gain insights into variations in the sources and biological cycling of phosphorus in a seasonally stratified lake ecosystem. Thirdly, we characterise δ18Op in shallow and deep groundwater samples, considering whether δ18Op might provide evidence for variation in source and extent of metabolism for phosphorus in groundwater ecosystems. Taken together, these data extend the catalogue of δ18Op in freshwater ecosystems, and further the scope of δ18Op as a tool to better understand phosphorus biogeochemistry.

Bibliographic note

© Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License