Iron release in aqueous environment by fresh volcanic ash from Mount Etna (Italy) and Popocatépetl (Mexico) volcanoes

  • Giancarlo Capitani
  • Nobuyoshi Miyajima
  • Roberto Sulpizio
  • Maria D’Addabbo
  • Lucia Galimberti
  • Massimo Guidi
  • Giovanni B. AndreozziEmail author
Original Article


In this study, we performed leaching experiments for timescales of hours-to-months in deionized water on fresh volcanic ash from Mt. Etna (Italy) and Popocatépetl (Mexico) volcanos to monitor Fe release as a function of ash mineral chemistry and size, with the aim of clarifying Fe release mechanisms and eventually evaluating the impact of volcanic ash on marine and lacustrine environments. To define sample mineralogy and Fe speciation, inclusive characterization was obtained by means of XRF, SEM, XRPD, EELS and Mössbauer spectroscopies. For Etna and Popocatépetl samples, glass proportions were quantified at 73 and 40%, Fe2O3 total contents at 11.6–13.2 and 5.8 wt%, and Fe3+/FeTot ratios at 0.33 and 0.23, respectively. Leaching experiments showed that significant amounts of iron, ~ 30 to 150 and ~ 750 nmol g−1 l−1 for pristine Etna and Popocatépetl samples, respectively, are released within the first 30 min as a function of decreasing particle size (from 1 to 0.125 mm). The Popocatépetl sample showed a very sustained Fe release (up to 10 times Etna samples) all along the first week, with lowest values never below 400 nmol g−1 l−1 and a maximum of 1672 nmol g−1 l−1 recorded after 5 days. This sample, being composed of very small particles (average particle size 0.125 mm) with large surface area, likely accumulated large quantities of Fe-bearing sublimates that quickly dissolved during leaching tests, determining high Fe release and local pH decrease (that contributed to release more Fe from the glass) at short timescale (hours-to-days). The fractional Fe solubility (FeS) was 0.004–0.011 and 0.23% for Etna and Popocatépetl samples, respectively, but no correlation was found between Fe released in solution and either ash Fe content, glass/mineral ratio or mineral assemblage. Results obtained suggest that volcanic ash chemistry, mineralogy and particle size assume a relevant role on Fe release mostly in the medium-to-long timescale, while Fe release in the short timescale is dominated by dissolution of surface sublimates (formed by physicochemical processes occurring within the eruption plume and volcanic cloud) and the effects of such a dissolution on the local pH conditions. For all samples, a moderate to sustained Fe release occurred for leaching times comparable with their residence time within the euphotic zone of marine and lacustrine environments (variable from few minutes to few hours), revealing their possible contribution to increase Fe bioavailability.


Volcanic ash Tephra Iron speciation Leaching Iron release 



Marco Cantù is acknowledged for collecting XRD powder spectrograms at the University of Milano Bicocca and Mauro Pallara for collecting XRF analyses at the University of Bari. The research was conducted in the framework of the PRIN 2009 project granted to RS: “Study of tephra layers in lacustrine sediments of the ICDP project: Scientific Collaboration on Past Speciation Conditions in Lake Ohrid (SCOPSCO). Evaluation of the environmental impact and contributions to chronology of sediments and to volcanic hazard assessment in distal areas”. A university grant (Fondi di Ateneo) from the University of Milano Bicocca to GC is also acknowledged. This article is an outcome of MIUR Project—Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018–2022.

Supplementary material

12665_2018_7692_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 19 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giancarlo Capitani
    • 1
  • Nobuyoshi Miyajima
    • 2
  • Roberto Sulpizio
    • 3
    • 4
  • Maria D’Addabbo
    • 3
  • Lucia Galimberti
    • 1
  • Massimo Guidi
    • 5
  • Giovanni B. Andreozzi
    • 6
    • 7
    Email author
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Ambiente e di Scienze della TerraMilanItaly
  2. 2.Bayerisches GeoinstitutUniversität BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e GeoambientaliBariItaly
  4. 4.Istituto per la Dinamica dei Processi Ambientali (IDPA)-CNRMilanItaly
  5. 5.Istituto di Geoscienze e Georisorse (IGG)-CNRPisaItaly
  6. 6.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraSapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly
  7. 7.CNR-IGAG, U.O. Roma, c/o Dipartimento di Scienze della TerraSapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly

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