Cadmium concentrations in pore waters can increase during soil incubation

f0579 bergen 2024b 16.9

Benoit Bergen and colleagues from the Division of Soil and Water Management, KU Leuven have a new article that investigates how cadmium concentrations in pore waters can increase during soil incubation. The article is publishes in the May issue of the journal Science of The Total Environment.

A sound evaluation of the cadmium (Cd) mass balance in agricultural soils needs accurate data of Cd leaching. Reported Cd concentrations from in situ studies are often one order of magnitude lower than predicted by empirical models, which were calibrated to pore water data from stored soils. It is hypothesized that this discrepancy is related to the preferential flow of water (non-equilibrium) and/or artefacts caused by drying and rewetting soils prior to pore water analysis. These hypotheses were tested on multiple soils (n = 27) with contrasting properties. Pore waters were collected by soil centrifugation from field fresh soil samples and also after incubating the same soils (28 days, 20 °C), following two drying-rewetting cycles, the idea being that chemical equilibrium in the soil is reached after incubation. Incubation increased pore water Cd by a factor 4, on average, and up to a factor 16. That increase was statistically related to the decrease of pore water pH and the increase of nitrate, both mainly related to incubation-induced nitrification. After correcting for both factors, the Cd rise was also highest at higher pore water Ca. This suggests that higher Ca in soil enlarges Cd concentration gradients among pore classes in field fresh soils because high Ca promotes soil aggregation and separation of mobile from immobile water. Several empirical models were used to predict pore water Cd. Predictions exceeded observations up to a factor 30 for the fresh pore waters but matched well with those of incubated soils; again, deviations from the 1:1 line in field fresh soils were largest in high Ca (>0.8 mM) soils, suggesting that local equilibrium conditions in field fresh soils are not found at higher Ca. Our results demonstrate that empirical models need recalibration with field fresh pore water data to make accurate soil Cd mass balances in risk assessments.


Benoit Bergen, Claudia Moens, Erik Smolders, Cadmium concentrations in pore waters can largely increase during soil incubation: Artefacts with consequences for Cd limits in fertilisers, Science of The Total Environment, 2024, 173555, ISSN 0048-9697,



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