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Elevated mobility of persistent organic pollutants in the soil of a tropical rainforest

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>7/04/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
Volume49
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)4302-4309
Publication statusPublished
Early online date23/03/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Semivolatile persistent organic pollutants (POP) are bioaccumulative and toxic contaminants. Their global distribution depends on source distribution, atmospheric transport, degradation, and the exchange with ocean and land surfaces. Forests are crucial terrestrial reservoirs due to the commonly envisaged high capacity of their surface soils to store and immobilize airborne contaminants bound to soil organic matter. Our results show that POPs can be unexpectedly mobile in the soil of a tropical rainforest due to fast litter turnover (leading to rapid POP transfer to the subsoil) and leaching rates exceeding degradation rates especially for more hydrophobic congeners. Co-transport in association with leaching fine particulate and dissolved organic matter appears as a relevant driver of this PCB export. A markedly different distribution pattern is displayed in this soil in comparison to soils of colder environments with lower overall storage capacity. These findings show that biogeochemistry of organic matter degradation and weathering can influence POP soil fate. Because tropical forests represent 60% of the global terrestrial productivity, the highlighted dynamics might have an implication for the general distribution of these contaminants.