Sulfur K-edge XANES spectroscopy reveals differences in sulfur speciation of bulk soils, humic acid, fulvic acid, and particle size separates

Jörg Prietzel, Jürgen Thieme, Murielle Salomé, Heike Knicker

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X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectra at the sulfur (S) K-edge (E=2472 eV) were compared for bulk soil material, humic and fulvic acid fractions, and different particle size separates from Ah horizons of two arable Luvisols, from an O and a Bs horizon of a Podzol under Norway spruce forest, and from an H horizon of a Histosol (peat bog). In the bulk soil samples, the contribution of reduced organic S (organic mono- and disulfides) to total sulfur increased from 27% to 52%, and the contribution of ester sulfate and SO42--S decreased from 39% to 14% of total S in the following order: arable Luvisols Ah-forested Podzol O-Histosol H. This sequence reflects the increasing organic carbon content and the decreasing O2 availability in that order. Neither sulfonate nor inorganic sulfide was detected in any of the bulk soil samples. For all samples except the Podzol Bs, the XANES spectra of the bulk soils differed considerably from the spectra of the humic and acid fractions of the respective soils, with the latter containing less reduced S (16-44% of total S) and more oxidized S (sulfone S: 19-35%; ester sulfate S: 14-38% of total S). Also the S speciation of most particle size fractions extracted from the Ah horizon of the Viehhausen Luvisol and the Bs horizon of the Podzol was different from that of the bulk soil. For both soils, the contribution of oxidized S species to total S increased and the contribution of sulfoxides and organic mono- and disulfides decreased with decreasing particle size. Thus, sulfur K-edge XANES spectra of alkaline soil extracts, including humic and fulvic acids or of particle size separates are not representative for the S speciation of the original soil sample they are derived from. The differences can be attributed to (i) artificial changes of the sulfur speciation during alkaline extraction (conversion of reduced S into oxidized S, loss of SO42- during purification of the extracts by dialysis) or particle size separation (carry-over of water-soluble S, such as SO42-), but also to (ii) preferential enrichment of oxidized S in hydrophilic water-soluble soil organic matter (ester sulfate) and in the clay fraction of soils (ester sulfate, adsorbed SO42-).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-890
Number of pages14
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Alkaline extraction
  • Particle size fractionation
  • S speciation


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