Post-glacial lead dynamics in a forest soil

Chris E. Johnson, Robert J. Petras, Richard H. April, Thomas G. Siccama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The use of alkyl-Pb additives in gasoline during the 20th century resulted in widespread Pb pollution. The objective of this study was to determine the relative importance of atmospherically deposited Pb and Pb released through weathering to soil Pb pools at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, New Hampshire. We employed a selective extraction method to estimate the amount of Pb that was: water-soluble + exchangeable (EX); inorganically bound (IB); organically bound (ORG); bound to amorphous oxides (AMOX); and bound in crystalline minerals (RES). After normalizing crystalline-Pb concentrations to the immobile element Ti, we estimated that 14.1 kg ha-1 of Pb has been weathered from Hubbard Brook soils in the 12,000-14,000 yr since deglaciation - a long-term average release of 1.0-1.2 g ha-1 a-1. Analysis of Ti-normalized total Pb concentrations indicated a net post-glacial decrease of 7.2 kg ha-1 in the total Pb pool - consisting of a net accumulation of 4.9 kg ha-1 in the O horizon, and a net loss of 12.1 kg ha-1 from mineral soil. Atmospheric deposition of Pb between 1926 and 1989 (estimated as 8.7 kg ha-1) was a major source of Pb in the post-glacial period. Together, long-term weathering release and 20th century atmospheric deposition could account for all of the Pb in the EX, IB, ORG, and AMOX fractions. Lead from gasoline appears to constitute a major fraction of the total Pb burden in Hubbard Brook soils. Periodic analysis of soil Pb fractions may be useful in monitoring the fate of Pb in forest soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-590
Number of pages12
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution: Focus
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Forest ecosystems
  • Fractionation
  • Lead pollution
  • Northern hardwoods
  • Organic matter
  • Soil chemistry
  • Spodosol
  • Trace metals
  • Weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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