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The error in stream sediment phosphorus fractionaton and sorption properties effected by drying pretreatments

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 10:03 authored by Zachery Simpson, Richard McDowell, Leo Condron
Purpose: Stream sediment can control phosphorus (P) in the water column at baseflow. Two common laboratory analyses of sediment P are the equilibrium phosphate concentration at net zero sorption (EPC0) and P fractionation. Good sample handling ensures representative results, but oftentimes, studies rely on air-dried or freeze-dried samples, which alters sediment biogeochemistry. How and to what extent this influences EPC0 and P fractionation remains unclear. We therefore examine pretreatment effects on sediment EPC0 and P fractionation. Materials and Methods: We collected fine sediments (< 2 mm) from streams in the Tukituki River and Reporoa Basins in New Zealand (n = 31 sediments). Subsamples were then either kept fresh, frozen then lyophilized (freeze-dried), or dried at 40 °C for 2 weeks (air-dried). Measurements of EPC0 and P fractionation were made in triplicate. The sequential P fractionation scheme determined five different P pools: NH4Cl (labile P), NaOH reactive P (RP; metal oxide-bound P) and unreactive P (URP; organic P), HCl (Ca-mineral P), and residual P. Along with statistical comparisons between fresh results and the two pre-treatments, we explored correlations between pre-treatment effects and sediment physicochemical characteristics. Results and Discussion: The sediments had generally low EPC0 (majority < 0.020 mg P L−1), and uncertainty in EPC0 increased with concentration magnitude. While there were sediment-specific changes in EPC0 with pre-treatment, there was no consistent bias caused by pre-treatment. However, the differences between the fresh and air-dried sediment EPC0 were larger and more variable than between fresh and freeze-dried sediment. For P fractionation, the Tukituki sediments were enriched in HCl-P, while Reporoa sediments had more NaOH-RP and NaOH-URP. Despite large sediment-specific changes, the overall effects of freeze- and air-drying sediment were increased NH4Cl-P (estimated average effect, θ ˆ θ^= + 0.63 and + 3.7 mg P kg−1), no significant changes for NaOH-RP, contrasting changes in NaOH-URP (− 3.4 and + 3.3 mg P kg−1), and decreased HCl-P (− 40 and − 33 mg P kg−1). Conclusions: We found that drying sediment significantly influenced EPC0 and P fractions (especially the NH4Cl-P fraction). Air-drying was particularly error-prone and should be avoided. The use of freeze-drying to preserve samples for later analyses and improve ease of handling may be used with appropriate consideration of the research objectives and the error introduced by freeze-drying. However, we recommend using fresh sediments for analyses whenever possible, as they best represent natural conditions.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018


  • English

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Springer Nature

Journal title

Journal of Soil and Sediments




Simpson, Z. P., McDowell, R. W., & Condron, L. M. (2019). The error in stream sediment phosphorus fractionaton and sorption properties effected by drying pretreatments. Journal of Soil and Sediments, 19(3), 1587–1597. doi:10.1007/s11368-018-2180-3

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