Fractionation of fulvic acid by iron and aluminum oxides: influence on copper toxicity to Ceriodaphnia dubia

Environmental Science & Technology
Colorado School of Mines, NOAA, INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Western Washington University, St. Joseph’s College of Maine
By: , and 



This study examines the effect on aquatic copper toxicity of the chemical fractionation of fulvic acid (FA) that results from its association with iron and aluminum oxyhydroxide precipitates. Fractionated and unfractionated FAs obtained from streamwater and suspended sediment were utilized in acute Cu toxicity tests on ,i>Ceriodaphnia dubia. Toxicity test results with equal FA concentrations (6 mg FA/L) show that the fractionated dissolved FA was 3 times less effective at reducing Cu toxicity (EC50 13 ± 0.6 μg Cu/L) than were the unfractionated dissolved FAs (EC50 39 ± 0.4 and 41 ± 1.2 μg Cu/L). The fractionation is a consequence of preferential sorption of molecules having strong metal-binding (more aromatic) moieties to precipitating Fe- and Al-rich oxyhydroxides, causing the remaining dissolved FA to be depleted in these functional groups. As a result, there is more bioavailable dissolved Cu in the water and hence greater potential for Cu toxicity to aquatic organisms. In predicting Cu toxicity, biotic ligand models (BLMs) take into account dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration; however, unless DOC characteristics are accounted for, model predictions can underestimate acute Cu toxicity for water containing fractionated dissolved FA. This may have implications for water-quality criteria in systems containing Fe- and Al-rich sediment, and in mined and mineralized areas in particular. Optical measurements, such as specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254), show promise for use as spectral indicators of DOC chemical fractionation and inferred increased Cu toxicity.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Fractionation of fulvic acid by iron and aluminum oxides: influence on copper toxicity to Ceriodaphnia dubia
Series title Environmental Science & Technology
DOI 10.1021/es502243m
Volume 48
Issue 20
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher American Chemical Society
Publisher location Easton, PA
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 11934
Last page 11943
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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