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Interacting effects of cation saturation and drying, freezing, or aging on the extractability of nonylphenol and phenanthrene from a sandy soil

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The structure and properties of the soil organic matter and its interactions with solutes may be altered by changes in soil chemistry and by the aging of soil. The main objective of this study was to investigate the effect of long-term aging and cation saturation of soil on the extractability and degradability of two hydrophobic xenobiotics in soil. In addition, it was tested if drying or freezing of soils can accelerate the relevant aging processes.

Materials and methods

The sandy topsoil was treated by either 0.1 M NaCl, CaCl2, AlCl3 solutions or water and samples were sterilized by γ-radiation and spiked with 14C-labeled nonylphenol (NP) or phenanthrene (Phe) at 10 μg g−1 of soil. Samples were then used in four parallel experimental setups: (1) 9 months of aging under sterile conditions, (2) inoculation by native original soil with further 7 months of aging (bioaging), (3) drying and wetting or (4) freezing and thawing of soils. After different time intervals, the extractability of xenobiotics with water, cyclodextrin, and ethanol was investigated.

Results and discussion

During 9 months of aging under sterile conditions a continuous decrease of NP and Phe extractability and an increase of the non-extractable fraction occurred. During the 7 months of biologically active aging, the mineralization of NP was lower than of Phe while more NP remained extractable than Phe. In comparison to the sterile aging, the bioaging led to a less formation of non-extractable residues of NP and Phe. The long-term sterile aging effects on NP-extractability were also achieved by short-term freezing and thawing of the soils, while aging of Phe was better mimicked by drying–wetting cycles. The effects of cation saturation of soils on xenobiotics extractability were less pronounced.


Sterile aging, bioaging, freezing, and thawing facilitate the formation of the non-extractable fraction of NP and Phe in the soils. Different cation treatments alter soil properties, but the effects on aging of NP and Phe in soils were negligible.

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Dissolved organic carbon






Soil organic matter


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Financial support provided by the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-DFG” through Priority Program “Biogeochemical Interfaces in Soils, SPP1315” for this study is gratefully appreciated.

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Correspondence to Bernd Marschner.

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Responsible editor: Jan Schwarzbauer

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Shchegolikhina, A., Schulz, S. & Marschner, B. Interacting effects of cation saturation and drying, freezing, or aging on the extractability of nonylphenol and phenanthrene from a sandy soil. J Soils Sediments 12, 1280–1291 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-012-0524-y

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  • Aluminum
  • Calcium
  • Cation saturation
  • Mineralization
  • Nonylphenol
  • Phenanthrene
  • Sodium
  • Soil organic matter
  • Sorption