, Volume 90, Issue 3-4, pp 375-405

Natural and anthropogenic enrichments of As, Cu, Pb, Sb, and Zn in ombrotrophic versus minerotrophic peat bog profiles, Jura Mountains, Switzerland

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Peat cores were taken from two contrasting Sphagnum bogs in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland. At Etang de la Gruyere (EGr), 6.5 m of peat has accumulated during the past 10,000 years. In the first 100 cm of this profile there are several distinct peaks in ash content, but the values are well within the range for typical ombrotrophic Sphagnum bogs. There is also considerable variation in the concentrations of major and trace lithogenic metals (Al, Ti, Sc, Ca, Mg, Rb, and Sr), but most of this is simply a reflection of the natural variations in the amount of mineral matter in the peats. The Ca/Mg molar ratios in the peats at EGr are comparable to or lower than the average rainwater composition in this area, showing that this section of the peat core is ombrotrophic (i.e. rainwater-fed). In other words, the inorganic constituents in the surface peats at EGr were supplied exclusively by atmospheric deposition. This peat core, therefore, is suitable for studying the historical record of atmospheric metal deposition. Arsenic, Cu, Pb, Sb, and Zn are all more abundant in surface and near surface peat layers compared to deeper parts of the profile. Enrichment factors (EFs) for the profile were calculated conservatively by normalizing the metal/Sc ratios of individual peat samples to the average of the five lowest metal/Sc ratios in this part of the core (69–84 cm); these are tentatively assumed to represent pre-Industrial background values. The maximum EFs are approximately 5 times for Cu, 15 times for As, and 30 to 50 times for Pb, Sb, and Zn.

At La Tourbière des Genevez (TGe), 1.5 m of peat represents 4,800 years of peat formation. At this site, the ash contents are higher and increase progressively with depth to values which are characteristic of minerotrophic fen peats. The concentration profiles of Al, Ti, Sc, Ca, Mg, Rb, Sr show the same general trend. The Ca/Mg molar ratios of these peats are generally twice the rainwater average, showing that this bog is essentially minerotrophic (ie groundwater-fed). Thus, the inorganic cccstituents in these peats were provided by both atmospheric and hydrospheric processes. Despite this, the Cu, Pb, Sb, and Zn concentrations are generally very similar to those at EGr, especially in the uppermost part of the profile, indicating that recent atmospheric inputs also dominate the supply of these metals to this bog. However, the minimum Pb and Sb concentrations in this profile are approximately five times higher than the corresponding values at EGr. The minerotrophic profile at TGT, therefore, could not by itself be used to calculate rates of atmospheric Pb and Sb deposition because it is impossible to distinguish between atmospheric and hydrospheric metal inputs.

At TGe, As concentrations increase continuously with depth, reaching concentrations in the deeper, older peats which are more than 50 times higher than the ‘background’ As values at EGr. At this site the natural supply of As by mineral soil water completely masks the recent, elevated inputs contributed by atmospheric deposition. Thus, the peat core from TGe is also unsuitable for studying atmospheric As deposition.