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Trace metals in the open oceans: speciation modelling based on humic type ligands

By Anthony Stockdale, Edward Tipping, John Hamilton-Taylor and Stephen Lofts


The speciation of trace metals in the oceans is typically explained by invoking the concept of metal binding to specific organic ligands, but a lack of detailed knowledge about the ligands has impeded the formulation of comprehensive models to predict speciation chemistry. The aim of our study was to shed further light on the possible role of humic-type ligands in trace metal complexation in the oceans by comparing published seawater speciation measurements with predictions obtained using a speciation model typically used for freshwater and soil systems (Windermere Humic Aqueous Model; WHAM). We show that in some cases speciation of trace metals in seawater environments may be reasonably predicted using this model with its default parameter set, without any model fitting. The results support the idea that humic-type ligands may account for much of the observed organic binding at least in the cases of Fe, Cu and Pb. Whilst the model does not consistently provide agreement with the measured values it provides a useful benchmark to compare different data sets and to examine variation in speciation as a result of varying level of competing metal ion concentration and fulvic acid activity

Topics: Marine Sciences, Chemistry
Publisher: CSIRO
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1071/EN11004
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