Lead isotope exchange between dissolved and fluvial particulate matter: a laboratory study from the Johor River estuary

TitleLead isotope exchange between dissolved and fluvial particulate matter: a laboratory study from the Johor River estuary
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsChen M, Boyle EA, Lee J-M, Nurhati IS, Zurbrick C, Switzer A, Carrasco G
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences
Date Published11/2016

Atmospheric aerosols are the dominant source of Pb to the modern marine environment, and as a result, in most regions of the ocean the Pb isotopic composition of dissolved Pb in the surface ocean (and in corals) matches that of the regional aerosols. In the Singapore Strait, however, there is a large offset between seawater dissolved and coral Pb isotopes and that of the regional aerosols. We propose that this difference results from isotope exchange between dissolved Pb supplied by anthropogenic aerosol deposition and adsorbed natural crustal Pb on weathered particles delivered to the ocean by coastal rivers. To investigate this issue, Pb isotope exchange was assessed through a closed-system exchange experiment using estuarine waters collected at the Johor River mouth (which discharges to the Singapore Strait). During the experiment, a known amount of dissolved Pb with the isotopic composition of NBS-981 (Pb-206/Pb-207=1.093) was spiked into the unfiltered Johor water (dissolved and particulate Pb-206/Pb-207=1.199) and the changing isotopic composition of the dissolved Pb was monitored. The mixing ratio of the estuarine and spike Pb should have produced a dissolved Pb-206/Pb-207 isotopic composition of 1.161, but within a week, the Pb-206/Pb-207 in the water increased to 1.190 and continued to increase to 1.197 during the next two months without significant changes of the dissolved Pb concentration. The kinetics of isotope exchange was assessed using a simple K-d model, which assumes multiple sub-reservoirs within the particulate matter with different exchange rate constants. The K-d model reproduced 56% of the observed Pb isotope variance. Both the closed system experiment and field measurements imply that isotope exchange can be an important mechanism for controlling Pb and Pb isotopes in coastal waters. A similar process may occur for other trace elements.

This article is part of the themed issue 'Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry'.