Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 21, Issue 18, pp 10997–11008 | Cite as

Copper distribution in surface and subsurface soil horizons

  • Daniel Arenas-Lago
  • Flora A. Vega
  • Luis Felipe O. Silva
  • María Luisa Andrade
Research Article


The horizons of four natural soils were treated with Cu2+ in an acid medium to study the retention capacity of Cu. The possible mineralogical changes arising because of the treatment were also studied. The soil properties and characteristics with the greatest influence on the metal retention and its distribution among the different soil fractions were determined. Crystalline phases of each horizon were determined by X-ray diffraction (XDR). The morphology, structural distribution and particle chemical composition of soil samples were investigated using field emission scanning electron microscopy. Cu distribution in the different geochemical phases of the soil was studied using a sequential extraction. The treatment led to an increase in the amorphous phases and the formation of new crystalline phases, such as rouaite (Cu2(NO3)(OH)3) and nitratine (NaNO3). Cu was also found superficially sorbed on amorphous hydroxy compounds of Fe that interact with albite, muscovite and gibbsite, and also on spherical and curved particles of aluminium clays. The largest amount of Cu retained was in an exchangeable form, and the smallest amount associated with the crystalline Fe oxides and residual fraction. In the surface horizons, the predominant Cu retention process is complexation in organomineral associations, while in the subsurface horizons it is adsorption.


Copper FE-SEM Mineral alteration Sequential extraction Soil XRD 



This study was supported by the Xunta de Galicia (project EM2013/018). We also thank the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science due to the Ramón y Cajal contract awarded to F.A. Vega. D. Arenas Lago was also awarded with a pre-doctoral fellowship FPI-MICINN.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Arenas-Lago
    • 1
  • Flora A. Vega
    • 1
  • Luis Felipe O. Silva
    • 2
  • María Luisa Andrade
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and Soil Science, Faculty of BiologyUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.La Salle University CentreCanoas, UNILASALLECanoasBrazil

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