Spatial trends and losses of major and trace elements in agricultural acid sulphate soils distributed in the artificially drained Rintala area, W. Finland

Peter Österholm*, Mats Åström

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Acid sulphate soils, common in the coastal areas of Finland, contribute strongly to high acid, S and metal loadings on adjacent surface waters. This, in turn, is causing significant harm to the aquatic ecology. There is, however, limited knowledge on the total amounts of acidity and chemical elements leached from these soils. The overall objective of this study was to determine geochemical patterns in acid sulphate soils and their parent sediments and, based on the identified patterns assess the extent, mechanisms and present state of leaching of major and trace elements from these soils. The distribution of pH, aqua regia extractable concentrations of P and metals (Al, Ba, Ca, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, K, La, Mg, Mn, Na, Ni, Sr, Th, Ti, V, Zn) and total concentrations of S and C were determined in 30 vertical profiles collected in the 23 km2 large Rintala agricultural area (mid-western Finland) underlain largely with S-rich sediments. It was found that approximately 70% of the area consists of acid sulphate soils with a minimum pH < 4.0, an average depth of 1.8 m, and S concentrations in the parent sediments varying from 0.24 to 1.04%. Acid sulphate soils have not developed where the S concentrations in the sediments are ≤0.10% or where the concentrations of organic C in the soil zones are >4%. Four different methods were used to estimate the losses of chemical elements from the acid sulphate soils: (1) the concentrations in the soil were compared with those in the parent sediments, (2) due to indicated heterogeneities in several profiles, the vertical changes of the immobile Ti was used to re-calculate element losses, (3) element depletions in the acid sulphate soils (as compared to those in the parent sediments) were compared to the corresponding depletions in the non acid sulphate soils, (4) element concentrations in drainage waters were compared with those in the parent sediments. Based on these calculations, it was assessed that the percentual leaching of the aqua regia extractable fraction (total for S) has been as follows: S (40-50%), Na (30-50%), Mn (25-35%), Sr (15-20%), Ca-Ni-Co (approximately 10%), Mg-K-Zn (5-10%), Th-La-Cu-Al-P-Ti-Fe (< 5%), and Ba-Cr-V (< 1%). While it was possible to quite accurately estimate the percentages and thus the amounts of elements lost, it was not possible to estimate the rate of leaching as there is no available detailed information on dates when ditching activities and thus oxidation-acidification processes started. Other calculations indicated that the mobile S reservoir is still some 15 ton/hectare, which is huge but still smaller than the losses that have occurred since the area was drained (23-28 ton/hectare).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1209-1218
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2002
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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