Soils reveal widespread manganese enrichment from industrial inputs

Elizabeth M. Herndon, Lixin Jin, Susan L. Brantley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


It is well-known that metals are emitted to the air by human activities and subsequently deposited to the land surface; however, we have not adequately evaluated the geographic extent and ecosystem impacts of industrial metal loading to soils. Here, we demonstrate that atmospheric inputs have widely contaminated soils with Mn in industrialized regions. Soils record elemental fluxes impacting the Earth's surface and can be analyzed to quantify inputs and outputs during pedogenesis. We use a mass balance model to interpret details of Mn enrichment by examining soil, bedrock, precipitation, and porefluid chemistry in a first-order watershed in central Pennsylvania, USA. This reveals that ∼53% of Mn in ridge soils can be attributed to atmospheric deposition from anthropogenic sources. An analysis of published data sets indicates that over half of the soils surveyed in Pennsylvania (70%), North America (60%), and Europe (51%) are similarly enriched in Mn. We conclude that soil Mn enrichment due to industrial inputs is extensive, yet patchy in distribution due to source location, heterogeneity of lithology, vegetation, and other attributes of the land surface. These results indicate that atmospheric transport must be considered a potentially critical component of the global Mn cycle during the Anthropocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-247
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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