Characterizing sediment acid volatile sulfide concentrations in European streams

G. Allen Burton, Andrew Green, Renato Baudo, Valery Forbes, Lien T.H. Nguyen, Colin R. Janssen, Jussi Kukkonen, Matti Leppanen, Lorraine Maltby, Amadeu Soares, Katherine Kapo, Preston Smith, John Dunning

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43 Scopus citations


Sediment acid volatile sulfide (AVS) concentrations were measured in wadeable streams of a wide variety of ecoregions of western Europe (84 sites in 10 countries and nine ecoregions) to better understand spatial distribution and ecoregion relationships. Acid volatile sulfide has been shown to be a major factor controlling the bioavailability and toxicity of many common trace metals, such as Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, and Zn. Sediment characteristics varied widely. The ratio of the sum of the simultaneously extracted metals (SEM) to AVS ranged from 0.03 to 486.59. The ΣSEM-AVS ranged from -40.02 to 17.71 μmol/g. On a regional scale, sediment characteristics such as dominant parent soil material showed significant trends in AVS distribution and variation by ecoregion. Total Fe and Mn were correlated weakly with SEM concentrations. Three AVS model approaches (i.e., the SEM:AVS ratio, SEM-AVS difference, and carbon normalization) were compared at threshold exceedance levels of SEM/AVS > 9, SEM-AVS > 2, and SEM-AVS/foc > 150 μmol/g organic carbon (OC). Only 4.76% of the sediments exceeded all three AVS thresholds; 22.6% of the sediments exceeded two models; and 13% of the sediments exceeded one model only. Using the SEM:AVS, SEM-AVS, and fraction of organic carbon models, and including site-specific data and regional soil characteristics, ecoregions 1 (Portugal), 3 (Italy), 4 (Switzerland), and 9 (Belgium/Germany) had the highest potential metals toxicity; ecoregions 13 and 8 (Belgium/France) showed the lowest potential toxicity. However, because AVS can vary widely spatially and temporally, these data should not be considered as representative of the sampled ecoregions. The general relationship between AVS levels and sediment characteristics provides some predictive capability for wadeable streams in the European ecoregions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Bioavailability
  • Metals
  • Risk assessment


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