Zinc coordination to multiple ligand atoms in organic-rich surface soils

Carmen Enid Martínez, Ekaterina Bazilevskaya, Antonio Lanzirotti

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We report on the solid-phase speciation of naturally occurring Zn in metalliferous organic-matter-rich surface soils. Synchrotron-based studies were used to probe elemental distribution and associations in soil particles (μ-XRF) together with the mineralogy (μ-XRD) and Zn bonding environment (Zn-μ-XANES) at the micrometer-scale level. The average bonding environment of Zn was also probed for bulk soils using XANES. We found the distribution of elements within soil particles to be heterogeneous; however, some elements are consistently co-located. While conventional XRD analyses of whole soils did not identify any Zn mineral phase, synchrotron-based-μ-XRD analyses indicated that sphalerite (ZnS) is present in a particle from a wetland soil (soil labeled G3). Linear combination fit (LCF) analyses of XANES spectra collected for bulk soils (Zn-XANES) and μm-regions (Zn-μ-XANES) within soil particles suggest Zn bonds to oxygen-, nitrogen-, and sulfur-functional groups in these sulfur-, nitrogen-, and zinc-rich organic surface soils. The XANES spectra of all bulk soils and of all μm-regions except for the wetland soil (G3), where ZnS was the most significant constituent, were best fitted by the Zn-arginine reference compound and therefore seems to indicate Zn bonding to nitrogen. Thus, these results provide compelling evidence of the formation of highly covalent Zn-organic bonds in the organic-rich surface soils that were studied. This may explain in part why metal partition coefficients (Kd) are generally higher in organic soils, and why the toxic thresholds for total metal concentrations are higher in organic than in mineral soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5688-5695
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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