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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Haumaier, L: Benzene polycarboxylic acids - a ubiquitous class of compounds in soils, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 173, 727-736 (2010)
Black carbon (BC) occurs ubiquitously in the environment. Its oxidation in the laboratory yields a suite of benzene polycarboxylic acids (BPCAs), suggesting similar oxidation products in soils. Since only for a few soils the occurrence of BPCAs in the free form has been documented, screening for them in a broad range of contrasting soils was conducted. They were extracted from soil samples with 0.5 M NaOH and quantified using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. As expected, BPCAs turned out to be as ubiquitous as BC. They were detected not only in every soil sample investigated so far, but also in samples from drill cores up to a depth of 10 m and in recently deposited calcareous tufa. The concentrations covered a range similar to that of some phenolic acids. The range exceeded those reported for low-molecular-weight aliphatic acids or simple sugars in soils. The distribution of BPCAs in soil profiles indicated a considerable potential of translocation within, and export from, soil, in particular of benzene hexacarboxylic (mellitic) acid. Mellitic acid may therefore be present in almost any geochemical sample affected by seepage water from soils. Its high water solubility and strong metal-complexing ability suggest it may be involved in metal-transport processes, at least on geological timescales. Key words: mellitic acid / ubiquitous occurrence / black carbon / Terra Preta
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