Modeling hydrologic controls on sulfur processes in sulfate-impacted wetland and stream sediments

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Abstract

Recent studies show sulfur redox processes in terrestrial settings are more important than previously considered, but much remains uncertain about how these processes respond to dynamic hydrologic conditions in natural field settings. We used field observations from a sulfate-impacted wetland and stream in the mining region of Minnesota (USA) to calibrate a reactive transport model and evaluate sulfur and coupled geochemical processes under contrasting hydrogeochemical scenarios. Simulations of different hydrological conditions showed that flux and chemistry differences between surface water and deeper groundwater strongly control hyporheic zone geochemical profiles. However, model results for the stream channel versus wetlands indicate sediment organic carbon content to be the more important driver of sulfate reduction rates. A complex nonlinear relationship between sulfate reduction rates and geochemical conditions is apparent from the model's higher sensitivity to sulfate concentrations in settings with higher organic content. Across all scenarios, simulated e balance results unexpectedly showed that sulfate reduction dominates iron reduction, which is contrary to the traditional thermodynamic ladder but corroborates recent experimental findings by Hansel et al. (2015) that “cryptic” sulfur cycling could drive sulfate reduction in preference over iron reduction. Following the thermodynamic ladder, our models shows that high surface water sulfate slows methanogenesis in shallow sediments, but field observations suggest that sulfate reduction may not entirely suppress methane. Overall, our results show that sulfate reduction may serve as a major component making up and influencing terrestrial redox processes, with dynamic hyporheic fluxes controlling sulfate concentrations and reaction rates, especially in high organic content settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2435-2457
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume122
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

Fingerprint

wetlands
Wetlands
Sulfur
fluvial deposit
Sulfates
sulfates
sulfur
Sediments
sediments
wetland
sulfate
modeling
ladders
Ladders
surface water
Surface waters
thermodynamics
Iron
Thermodynamics
groundwater control

Keywords

  • hyporheic zone
  • iron reduction
  • methane
  • reactive transport modeling
  • sulfate reduction
  • surface water-groundwater exchange

Cite this

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title = "Modeling hydrologic controls on sulfur processes in sulfate-impacted wetland and stream sediments",
abstract = "Recent studies show sulfur redox processes in terrestrial settings are more important than previously considered, but much remains uncertain about how these processes respond to dynamic hydrologic conditions in natural field settings. We used field observations from a sulfate-impacted wetland and stream in the mining region of Minnesota (USA) to calibrate a reactive transport model and evaluate sulfur and coupled geochemical processes under contrasting hydrogeochemical scenarios. Simulations of different hydrological conditions showed that flux and chemistry differences between surface water and deeper groundwater strongly control hyporheic zone geochemical profiles. However, model results for the stream channel versus wetlands indicate sediment organic carbon content to be the more important driver of sulfate reduction rates. A complex nonlinear relationship between sulfate reduction rates and geochemical conditions is apparent from the model's higher sensitivity to sulfate concentrations in settings with higher organic content. Across all scenarios, simulated e− balance results unexpectedly showed that sulfate reduction dominates iron reduction, which is contrary to the traditional thermodynamic ladder but corroborates recent experimental findings by Hansel et al. (2015) that “cryptic” sulfur cycling could drive sulfate reduction in preference over iron reduction. Following the thermodynamic ladder, our models shows that high surface water sulfate slows methanogenesis in shallow sediments, but field observations suggest that sulfate reduction may not entirely suppress methane. Overall, our results show that sulfate reduction may serve as a major component making up and influencing terrestrial redox processes, with dynamic hyporheic fluxes controlling sulfate concentrations and reaction rates, especially in high organic content settings.",
keywords = "hyporheic zone, iron reduction, methane, reactive transport modeling, sulfate reduction, surface water-groundwater exchange",
author = "Ng, {Gene-Hua C} and Yourd, {A. R.} and Nate Johnson and Myrbo, {Amy E}",
year = "2017",
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T1 - Modeling hydrologic controls on sulfur processes in sulfate-impacted wetland and stream sediments

AU - Ng, Gene-Hua C

AU - Yourd, A. R.

AU - Johnson, Nate

AU - Myrbo, Amy E

PY - 2017/9/1

Y1 - 2017/9/1

N2 - Recent studies show sulfur redox processes in terrestrial settings are more important than previously considered, but much remains uncertain about how these processes respond to dynamic hydrologic conditions in natural field settings. We used field observations from a sulfate-impacted wetland and stream in the mining region of Minnesota (USA) to calibrate a reactive transport model and evaluate sulfur and coupled geochemical processes under contrasting hydrogeochemical scenarios. Simulations of different hydrological conditions showed that flux and chemistry differences between surface water and deeper groundwater strongly control hyporheic zone geochemical profiles. However, model results for the stream channel versus wetlands indicate sediment organic carbon content to be the more important driver of sulfate reduction rates. A complex nonlinear relationship between sulfate reduction rates and geochemical conditions is apparent from the model's higher sensitivity to sulfate concentrations in settings with higher organic content. Across all scenarios, simulated e− balance results unexpectedly showed that sulfate reduction dominates iron reduction, which is contrary to the traditional thermodynamic ladder but corroborates recent experimental findings by Hansel et al. (2015) that “cryptic” sulfur cycling could drive sulfate reduction in preference over iron reduction. Following the thermodynamic ladder, our models shows that high surface water sulfate slows methanogenesis in shallow sediments, but field observations suggest that sulfate reduction may not entirely suppress methane. Overall, our results show that sulfate reduction may serve as a major component making up and influencing terrestrial redox processes, with dynamic hyporheic fluxes controlling sulfate concentrations and reaction rates, especially in high organic content settings.

AB - Recent studies show sulfur redox processes in terrestrial settings are more important than previously considered, but much remains uncertain about how these processes respond to dynamic hydrologic conditions in natural field settings. We used field observations from a sulfate-impacted wetland and stream in the mining region of Minnesota (USA) to calibrate a reactive transport model and evaluate sulfur and coupled geochemical processes under contrasting hydrogeochemical scenarios. Simulations of different hydrological conditions showed that flux and chemistry differences between surface water and deeper groundwater strongly control hyporheic zone geochemical profiles. However, model results for the stream channel versus wetlands indicate sediment organic carbon content to be the more important driver of sulfate reduction rates. A complex nonlinear relationship between sulfate reduction rates and geochemical conditions is apparent from the model's higher sensitivity to sulfate concentrations in settings with higher organic content. Across all scenarios, simulated e− balance results unexpectedly showed that sulfate reduction dominates iron reduction, which is contrary to the traditional thermodynamic ladder but corroborates recent experimental findings by Hansel et al. (2015) that “cryptic” sulfur cycling could drive sulfate reduction in preference over iron reduction. Following the thermodynamic ladder, our models shows that high surface water sulfate slows methanogenesis in shallow sediments, but field observations suggest that sulfate reduction may not entirely suppress methane. Overall, our results show that sulfate reduction may serve as a major component making up and influencing terrestrial redox processes, with dynamic hyporheic fluxes controlling sulfate concentrations and reaction rates, especially in high organic content settings.

KW - hyporheic zone

KW - iron reduction

KW - methane

KW - reactive transport modeling

KW - sulfate reduction

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