Environmental Chemistry Letters

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 100–112 | Cite as

S–O–C isotopic picture of sulphate–methane–carbonate system in freshwater lakes from Poland. A review

  • Mariusz O. JedrysekEmail author
Original Paper


Microbial oxidation of organic compounds (including methane), in freshwater sediments, may result in precipitation of carbonates, which may become an important geochemical archive of paleoenvironmental variations. Most probably low δ13C value in calcite in eutrophic systems results from an advanced oxidation of organic compounds in turbulent or/and sulphate-rich conditions. Likewise, high δ13C value in calcite from organic-rich sediments may evidence low redox potential of the freshwater system. Oxidation of methane and organic matter results in significant isotope effects in sulphates dissolved in water. Therefore, to better understand the origin of carbon isotope signal in carbonates, concentration and stable isotope measurements in dissolved sulphate (water column), bubble methane and calcite (freshwater sediments) have been carried out in 24 lakes, 2 ponds and 4 rivers in Poland. The highest concentration of sulphate has been detected in rivers (85.47 SO4 2− mg/l) and an artificial lake (70.30 SO4 2− mg/l) located in the extremely SO4 2−-polluted region called the “Black Triangle”. The lowest concentration of sulphate is found in dystrophic and mountain lakes (from 0.5 SO4 2− to about 3 mg/l). The lowest δ34S(SO4 2−) and δ18O(SO4 2−) values occur in unpolluted lakes in eastern Poland (−0.94 and 1.38‰, respectively). The highest S and O isotopic ratios are found in a polluted lake in western Poland (δ14S(SO4 2)=12.95‰) and in a dystrophic lake in eastern Poland (δ18O(SO4 2) = 16.15‰) respectively. It is proposed that δ34SO4 2− and (18O(SO4 2−) values in lakes represent a good tool to assess and quantify anthropogenic impact by acid precipitation and to monitor variations in the trophic state and redox processes controlled by biodegradation of organic compounds in sediments and water column. In general, increasing depth (up to 12 m) of the water column is associated with decreasing trend the δ13C(CH4) value from about –35 to about –78‰. However, δ13C value in sedimentary calcite (δ13C vary from –10 to 0.5‰) shows opposite trends as compared to the corresponding methane. This is probably due to redox processes and distribution of heavy isotopes between methane and calcite. Likewise, turbulent water (river) show high δ13C value in methane and low δ13C value in calcite—this is probably due to an enhanced oxidation of methane producing 13C-depleted CO2. In contrast to clean lakes, it is observed that an increase of the δ13C(CH4) value occurs with increasing depth of the water column in a strongly SO4 2−-contaminated lake. This is probably due to a loss of biological buffering potential of the lake accompanied by an active oxidation of methane precursors.


Lake Water Carbonates Sulphate Methane Sulphur Oxygen Carbon Isotope Anthropogenic impact 



Sincerest thanks are due to Mr. B. Doroszko, M. Filus, W. Łopata, K. Paśko, K. Sokolowski and A. Wójcik for their invaluable help in sampling and laboratory works and to Dr. Sonja Lojen for discussion. Great thanks are due to Prof. Dr. St.Halas for his help with some mass spectrometric analyses and Dr. A. Gąsiewicz for his critical review of the manuscript. This study was supported by the State Committee for Scientific Research grants (including 2P04G04528), University of Wroclaw S and W grants, and IAI.


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© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoy of Isotope Geology and Geoecology, Department of Applied Geology and GeochemistryUniversity of WrocławWrocławPoland

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