Fractionation and extractability of sulfur, iron and trace elements in sulfidic sediments

Edward D. Burton, Richard T. Bush, Leigh A. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


This study describes iron and sulfur fractionation, and the related extractability of selected trace elements (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn) in estuarine sediments. The sediments were sulfidic, with moderately high concentrations of pore-water sulfide (200-600 μmol l-1) and acid-volatile sulfide (AVS; 9.9-129 μmol g-1). Pyrite-S concentrations increased with depth, with 63-251 μmol g-1 at site W1 and 312-669 μmol g-1 at site W2. The degree of sulfidisation was generally high (>80%), indicating that Fe may be limiting pyrite accumulation. The ratios of AVS to pyrite-S increased with sediment depth, as expected for the pyritisation of solid-phase AVS. Cadmium, Pb and Zn extractability in 1 M HCl indicated that these elements are not significantly sequestered during pyritisation, whereas sequestration may be important for As, Cu and possibly Ni. Extractability trends for Cr suggest that diagenesis in sulfidic sediments may enhance Cr reactivity. Overall, replacement of AVS by pyrite during diagenesis may enhance the reactivity of Cd, Cr, Pb and Zn, whereas As, Cu and possibly Ni may be rendered less reactive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421-1428
Number of pages8
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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