An ombrotrophic peat core was collected in 2005 from Etang de la Gruère, Jura Mountains, Switzerland. The concentrations of nine among the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency priority polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (i.e., acenaphthene, phenanthrene, fluorene, pyrene, fluoranthene, benzo[jbk]fluoranthene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[ghi]perylene, and indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene) were determined in both bulk peat and corresponding humic acids (HA) samples by gas chromatography equipped with a mass spectrometry detector (GC-MS). The maximum PAHs concentrations in peat (around 1,250 μg Σ PAHs kg−1 dry matter) were found at 28–30 cm of depth, which correspond to ca. 1920–1930, when coal inputs to Switzerland reached their maximum level. Amongst the nine PAHs analyzed in the peat samples, pyrene (Pyr) was the predominant species, accounting for ca. 20–100% of the total PAHs throughout the profile. In the HA fraction, that represents 24.7% (average value) of the bulk peat, only phenanthrene (Phe), and sporadically Pyr and fluoranthene (Fth), were detected. In particular, HA showed Phe concentrations that were ten–150 times higher than corresponding bulk peat samples, thus suggesting its preservation against biodegradation due to the incorporation into HA molecules.
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The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge Prof. W. Shotyk, University of Heidelberg, for providing the peat samples and allowing XRF analysis in his Institute. Discussions with Prof. N. Senesi, Prof. M.D.R. Pizzigallo, University of Bari, and Dr. César Plaza, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas of Madrid, were helpful and appreciated. We are grateful also to anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and critical comments on the manuscript.
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