Po-210 in the Environment: Biogeochemical Cycling and Bioavailability

  • Guebuem Kim
  • Tae-Hoon Kim
  • Thomas M. Church
Part of the Advances in Isotope Geochemistry book series (ADISOTOPE)


As the heaviest element of Group 6A, 210Po has a unique biogeochemistry in the environment that challenges our understanding. This chapter provides an overview of the research on 210Po in the atmosphere as well as in marine and other aqueous environments. Excess atmospheric 210Po has been attributed to external sources, such as volcanic emissions, resuspension of soil humus, incursion of stratospheric air, sea spray from the oceanic surface micro-layer, plant exudates including evapotranspiration, anthropogenic emissions (e.g., emission from coal combustion), and bio-volatilization through the formation of dimethyl polonide. Most of these sources have been qualitatively identified, yet they remain difficult to quantify. In the aqueous environment, 210Po is efficiently accumulated in plankton and bacteria and is biomagnified through the food webs, relative to its grandparent 210Pb, causing 210Po to be largely deficient in the euphotic zone. Globally, 210Po deficiency increases as ocean productivity decreases in the upper 1,000 m through biological transfer to the upper trophic levels. Smaller 210Po deficiencies in the productive areas of the ocean appear to be related to relatively active bacterial remineralization. Unusually high activities of 210Po are often found in the suboxic and anoxic waters in association with S, Mn, and Fe redox cycles. As many details of these processes remain elusive and under debate, we propose additional studies that should be conducted.


Particulate Organic Carbon 210Po Activity 210Pb Activity Surface Microlayer 210Po Level 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guebuem Kim
    • 1
  • Tae-Hoon Kim
    • 1
  • Thomas M. Church
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesSeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.College of Earth, Ocean, and EnvironmentUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA

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