Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 821–839 | Cite as

Determination of Total Free Sulphides in Sediment Porewater and Artefacts Related to the Mobility of Mineral Sulphides

  • Kristina A. Brown
  • Eric R. McGreer
  • Bernie Taekema
  • Jay T. Cullen
Original Paper


A field and laboratory study of the accuracy of a method commonly used to determine free sulphide concentrations in the porewater of marine sediments is presented. The method uses an ion-selective electrode (ISE), sensitive to the sulphide ion (S2−), in sediments buffered to high pH (>12) and is commonly used in regulatory monitoring programs to assess the impacts of open net-pen finfish aquaculture on local marine habitats. Here we report that on the timescale of field measurements, the accepted protocol can lead to significant bias of free sulphide measurements, with orders of magnitude higher concentration detected in the buffered sediment–porewater slurry than in porewater samples isolated and analysed separately. Laboratory experiments with model marine sediments and analysis of sediment composition indicate that this bias is likely introduced by the dissolution of particulate sulphides and/or sulphur present in the sediments under the intense alkaline conditions of the protocol. Recommendations for the modification and continued use of this commonly applied field methodology are discussed.


Free sulphide Aquaculture Environmental monitoring Method Toxicity 



The authors would like to thank the following people for their much-appreciated assistance throughout the duration of this project: Kirsten White, the Ministry of Environment, Nanaimo BC; field work assistance from Conservation Officers Dan Dwyer and Gord Gudbranson, Marine Technician Conrad Cooper, Captain Ken Brown and the crew of the RV John Strickland; Sharon Blackmore (UVIC) for preparation of SEM samples; and the SEM laboratory (Brent Gowen) at the University of Victoria. This research was funded by a grant from the BC MOE and NSERC to JTC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristina A. Brown
    • 1
  • Eric R. McGreer
    • 2
  • Bernie Taekema
    • 2
  • Jay T. Cullen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Victoria, School of Earth and Ocean SciencesVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Environmental Protection DivisionBritish Columbia Ministry of EnvironmentNanaimoCanada

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