Sulfur cycling in freshwater sediments: A cryptic driving force of iron deposition and phosphorus mobilization.Sci Total Environ. 2019 Mar 20; 657:1294-1303.ST
Sulfur cycling in freshwater ecosystems has been previously considered minor, and the direct evidence of its impacts on iron and phosphorus cycles in freshwater sediments remains unclear. In this study, mesocosms with amended acetate and various sulfate concentrations (1.5-3.0 mmol L-1) were set up to investigate sulfur cycling and its influences on iron-rich freshwater sediments. Acetate addition induced hypoxia and provided substrates, which stimulated the sulfur cycling with evidence of SO42- decline, ΣS2-, S0 increase and corresponding variations of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria. Meanwhile, the growth of iron-reducing bacteria (IRB) was suppressed, and lower Fe(II) release was correspondingly related to larger SRB abundance at higher sulfate level, indicating that microbial iron reduction might be blocked by SRB activities. However, continuous dissolution of Fe(III) oxides and generation of iron sulfides were observed, suggesting that sulfide-mediated chemical iron reduction (SCIR) became the dominant iron-reducing pathway, and Fe(II) was buried as iron sulfides instead of released to water column, which resulted in a transition of iron cycling into unidirectional SCIR. Consequently, continuous dissolution of Fe(III) oxides led to significant increase of PO43- concentration in the water column and sediment pore-water, revealing the phosphorus mobility in sediments derived from the SCIR process. To note, sustained accumulation of iron sulfides was observed even without ΣS2- presence, suggesting that ΣS2- precipitation occurred prior to diffusion. Thus, ΣS2--missing sulfur cycling seemed "cryptic" in this study. To highlight, the transition of the iron-reducing pathway and resulting PO43- release can be induced even under current sulfate level of Lake Taihu, and elevated sulfate levels could significantly intensify SCIR and phosphorus mineralization. Thus, the stimulated iron deposition and the resulting phosphorus release derived from the sulfur cycling should be paid more attention to in the treatment of eutrophic freshwater ecosystems.