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The use of ion exchange membranes for isotope analyses on soil water sulfate: laboratory experiments

Kwon, J.S., B. Mayer, S.T. Yun and M. Nightingale. 2008. Journal of Environmental Quality 37: 501-508


To investigate the potential use of anion exchange membranes (plant root simulator [PRS™] probes) for isotope investigations of the soil sulfur cycle, laboratory experiments were performed to examine the sulfate exchange characteristics and to determine the extent of sulfur and oxygen isotope fractionation during sulfate sorption and desorption on the probes in aqueous solutions and simulated soil solutions. The sulfate-exchange tests in aqueous solutions under varying experimental conditions indicated that the amount of sulfate exchanged onto PRS™ probes increased with increasing reaction time, initial sulfate concentration, and the number of probes used (= surface area), whereas the percentage of removal of available sulfate was constant irrespective of the initial sulfate concentration. The competition of nitrate and chloride in the solution lowered the amount of exchanged sulfate. The exchange experiments in a simulated soil under water-saturated and water-unsaturated conditions showed that a considerable proportion of the soil sulfate was exchanged by the PRS™ probes after about 10 d. There was no evidence for significant sulfur and oxygen isotope fractionation between soil sulfate and sulfate recovered from the PRS™ probes. Therefore, we recommend the use of PRS™ probes as an efficient and easy way to collect soil water sulfate for determination of its isotope composition.