Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 443–456 | Cite as

Chemical and spectroscopic investigation of porewater and aqueous extracts of corresponding peat samples throughout a bog core (Jura Mountains, Switzerland)

  • Claudio Zaccone
  • Valeria D’Orazio
  • William Shotyk
  • Teodoro M. Miano


Background, aim, and scope

Fluorescence and UV-visible spectroscopies are simple but useful methods to characterize organic matter in the aqueous phase according to its aromatic nature and humification degree. Although there are several studies about porewater and water-extractable organic matter (WEOM) from peat, at present, no comparative investigations are available in the literature. Thus, the aim of the present study was to identify and compare chemical and spectroscopic features of porewaters and corresponding WEOM samples along a 105-cm undisturbed peat profile.

Material and methods

The peat core was collected in June 2005 from a Swiss ombrotrophic bog and divided into slices of 1 ± 0.15-cm thickness. Porewater samples (n = 91) were extracted and analyzed for pH; from these, 30 samples were filtered (0.45 μm), analyzed for dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration, and characterized by means of UV-vis (E4/E6 ratio) and fluorescence spectroscopies. The same analyses were also carried out on the WEOM of the corresponding peat samples.

Results and conclusions

The results show several differences between porewaters and WEOM throughout the bog profile. In particular, and with the exception of the first ca. 20 cm depth, spectroscopic data clearly underline a more “humic-like” character of DOC of WEOM compared to porewater samples. Furthermore, the trends in E4/E6 ratios of both porewaters and WEOM samples indicate that the organic matter is characterized by decreasing aromaticity, molecular weights, and degree of polycondensation throughout the profile. The high correlation among the bulk density of the peat and the DOC concentrations in both porewaters and WEOM samples demonstrates a clear stratification of the organic matter which suggests that the vertical migration of DOC is rather limited. The first ca. 20 cm of the profile shows also opposite physicochemical and spectroscopic features compared to the deeper horizons probably because this is the predominantly oxic zone with far greater physiological activity of plants and microorganisms.

Recommendations and perspectives

Assessing porewater and WEOM features throughout peat, soil, and sediment profiles is important to better understand water–sediment interface dynamics and translocation processes of organic and inorganic pollutants, especially considering that ombrotrophic bogs are often used as archives of atmospheric depositions.


DOC E4/E6 ratio Fluorescence spectroscopy Ombrotrophic peat Undisturbed profile WEOM 



The authors are indebted to anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions on the manuscript. C. Zaccone would like to dedicate this work to the memory of his grandparents.


  1. Alberts JJ, Takacs M (2004) Total luminescence spectra of IHSS standard and reference fulvic acids, humic acids and natural organic matter: comparison of aquatic and terrestrial source terms. Org Geochem 35:243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker A, Tipping E, Thacker SA, Gondar D (2008) Relating dissolved organic matter fluorescence and functional properties. Chemosphere 73:1765–1772CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boelter DH (1969) Physical properties of peats as related to degree of decomposition. Soil Sci Soc Am J 33:606–609CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Charman D (2002) Peatlands and environmental change. Wiley, Chichester 301 ppGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen J, Gu B, LeBoeuf EJ, Pan H, Dai S (2002) Spectroscopic characterization of the structural and functional properties of natural organic matter fractions. Chemosphere 48:59–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen J, LeBoeuf EJ, Dai S, Gu B (2003) Fluorescence spectroscopic studies of natural organic matter fractions. Chemosphere 50:639–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen Y, Senesi N, Schnitzer M (1977) Information Provided on Humic Substances by E4/E6 Ratios. Soil Sci Soc Am J 41:352–358Google Scholar
  8. Chow AT, Tanji KK, Gao S, Dahlgren RA (2006) Temperature, water content and dry–wet cycle effects on DOC production and carbon mineralization in agricultural peat soils. Soil Biol Biochem 38:477–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Coble PG, Schultz CA, Mopper K (1993) Fluorescence contouring analysis of DOC intercalibration experiment samples: a comparison of techniques. Mar Chem 41:173–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cocozza C, D’Orazio V, Miano TM, Shotyk W (2003) Characterization of solid and aqueous phases of a peat bog profile using molecular fluorescence spectroscopy, ESR and FT-IR, and comparison with physical properties. Org Geochem 34:49–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Corvasce M, Zsolnay A, D’Orazio V, Lopez R, Miano TM (2006) Characterization of water extractable organic matter in a deep soil profile. Chemosphere 62:1583–1590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Farnham RS, Finney HR (1965) Classification and properties of organic soils. Adv Agron 17:115–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Feldmeyer-Christe E (1990) Etude phyto-écologique des tourbières des Franches-Montagnes (canton du Jura et de Berne, Suisse). Matériaux pour le levé géobotanique de la Suisse 66, 163 ppGoogle Scholar
  14. Givelet N, Le Roux G, Cheburkin A, Chen B, Frank J, Goodsite ME, Kempter H, Krachler M, Noernberg T, Rausch N, Rheinberger S, Roos-Barraclough F, Sapkota A, Scholz C, Shotyk W (2004) Suggested protocol for collecting, handling and preparing peat cores and peat samples for physical, chemical, mineralogical and isotopic analyses. J Environ Monit 6:481–492CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glatzel S, Kalbitz K, Dalva M, Moore T (2003) Dissolved organic matter properties and their relationship to carbon dioxide efflux from restored peat bogs. Geoderma 113:397–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Golden Software Inc (2002) Surfer 8.01 software. Golden Software Inc, Golden, p 432Google Scholar
  17. Gorham E, Eisenreich SJ, Ford J, Santelmann MV (1985) The chemistry of bog waters. In: Chemical process in lakes. Wiley, New York, pp 339–363Google Scholar
  18. Goslan EH, Voros S, Banks J, Wilson D, Hillis P, Campbell AT, Parsons SA (2004) A model for predicting dissolved organic carbon distribution in a reservoir water using fluorescence spectroscopy. Water Res 38:783–791CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Johnson L, Damman AWH (1993) Decay and its regulation in Sphagnum peatlands. Adv Bryol 5:249–296Google Scholar
  20. Joray M (1942) L’Étange de la Gruyère, Jura bernois. Étude pollenanalytique et stratigraphique de la tourbière. In: Matériaux pour le Levé Géobotanique de la Suisse, 25, Hans Huber, BerneGoogle Scholar
  21. Jury WA, Gardner WR, Garder WH (1991) Soil Physics. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  22. Kalbitz K, Geyer S, Geyer W (2000) A comparative characterization of dissolved organic matter by means of original aqueous samples and isolated humic substances. Chemosphere 40:1305–1312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kuhry P, Vitt DH (1996) Fossil carbon/nitrogen ratios as a measure of peat decomposition. Ecology 77:271–275CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Martínez-Cortizas A, Pontevedra-Pombal X, Garcia-Rodeja E, Novoa-Munoz JC, Shotyk W (1999) Mercury in a Spanish peat bog: archive of climate change and atmospheric metal deposition. Science 284:939–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miano TM, Sposito G, Martin JP (1988) Fluorescence spectroscopy of humic substances. Soil Sci Soc Am J 52:1016–1019Google Scholar
  26. Mobed JJ, Hemmingsen SL, Autry JL, McGown LB (1996) Fluorescence characterization of IHSS humic substances: total luminescence spectra with absorbance correction. Environ Sci Technol 30:3061–3065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nelson PN, Dictor MC, Soulas G (1994) Availability of organic carbon in soluble and particle-size fractions from a soil profile. Soil Biol Biochem 26:1549–1555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ramann E (1895) Organogene Ablagerungen der Jetztzeit. Neues Jahrb. Mineral Geol Paleontol 10:119–166Google Scholar
  29. Roos-Barraclough F, van der Knaap WO, van Leeuwen JFN, Shotyk W (2004) A late-glacial and holocene record of climatic change from a Swiss peat humification profile. Holocene 14:7–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schiff S, Aravena R, Mewhinney E, Elgood R, Warner B, Dillon P, Trumbore S (1998) Precambrian shield wetlands: hydrologic control of the sources and export of dissolved organic matter. Climatic Change 40:167–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Scott MJ, Jones MN, Woof C, Tipping E (1998) Concentrations and fluxes of dissolved organic carbon in drainage water from an upland peat system. Environ Int 24:537–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Senesi N, Miano TM, Provenzano MR, Brunetti G (1991) Characterization, differentiation, and classification of humic substances by fluorescence spectroscopy. Soil Sci 152:259–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shotyk W (1988) Review of the Inorganic Geochemistry of Peats and Peatland Waters. Earth-Sci Rev 25:95–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Shotyk W (1989) The chemistry of peatland waters. Water Qual Bull 14:47–58Google Scholar
  35. Shotyk W (1996) Peat bog archives of metal deposition: geochemical evaluation of peat profiles, natural variations in metal concentrations, and metal enrichment factors. Environ Rev 4:149–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shotyk W, Steinmann P (1994) Pore-water indicators of rainwater-dominated versus groundwater-dominated peat bog profiles (Jura Mountains, Switzerland). Chem Geol 116:137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shotyk W, Weiss D, Appleby PG, Cheburkin AK, Frei R, Gloor M, Kramers JD, Reese S, van der Knaap WO (1998) History of atmospheric lead deposition since 12, 370 14C yr BP from a peat bog, Jura Mountains Switzerland. Science 281:1635–1640CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Statistical Graphics Corporation (1994) Statgraphics Plus 5.1 Statistical Graphics System, Professional Edition. Manugistics, RockvilleGoogle Scholar
  39. Steinmann P, Shotyk W (1997a) Chemical composition, pH and redox state of sulfur and iron in complete vertical porewater profiles from two Sphagnum peat bogs, Jura Mountains, Switzerland. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 61:1143–1163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Steinmann P, Shotyk W (1997b) Geochemistry, mineralogy, and geochemical mass balance on major elements in two peat bog profiles (Jura Mountains, Switzerland). Chem Geol 138:25–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stevenson FJ (1994) Humus chemistry. Genesis, composition, reactions, 2nd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Tate RL III (1987) Soil Organic Matter: Biological and Ecological effects. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Thurman EM (1985) Organic Geochemistry of Natural Waters. Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W Junk, Dordrecht 497 ppGoogle Scholar
  44. Wardenaar ECP (1987) A new hand tool for cutting peat profiles. Can J Bot-Rev Can Bot 65:1772–1773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wolfbeis OS (1985) The fluorescence of organic natural products. In: Schulman SG (ed) Molecular Luminescence Spectroscopy. Part I: Methods and Application. Wiley, New York, pp 167–370Google Scholar
  46. Zaccone C, Cocozza C, Cheburkin AK, Shotyk W, Miano TM (2007a) Highly organic soils as ‘witnesses’ of anthropogenic Pb, Cu, Zn, and 137Cs inputs during centuries. Water Air Soil Pollut 186:263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zaccone C, Gallipoli A, Cocozza C, Trevisan M, Miano TM (2009) Distribution patterns of selected PAHs in bulk peat and corresponding humic acids from a Swiss ombrotrophic bog profile. Plant Soil 315:35–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zaccone C, Miano TM, Shotyk W (2007b) Qualitative comparison between raw peat and related humic acids in an ombrotrophic bog profile. Org Geochem 38:151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zaccone C, Said-Pullicino D, Gigliotti D, Miano TM (2008) Diagenetic trends in the phenolic constituents of Sphagnum-dominated peat and its corresponding humic acid fraction. Org Geochem 39:830–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zsolnay A (1996) Dissolved humus in soil waters. In: Piccolo A (ed) Humic Substances in Terrestrial Ecosystem. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 171–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zsolnay A (2003) Dissolved organic matter: artefacts, definitions, and functions. Geoderma 113:187–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudio Zaccone
    • 1
  • Valeria D’Orazio
    • 2
  • William Shotyk
    • 3
  • Teodoro M. Miano
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agro-Environmental Sciences, Chemistry and Plant ProtectionUniversity of FoggiaFoggiaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Chemistry of Agro-Forestry and EnvironmentUniversity of BariBariItaly
  3. 3.Institute of Earth SciencesUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations