Solid-phase phosphorus speciation in Saharan Bodélé Depression dusts and source sediments

Phosphorus (P) is one of the most important limiting nutrients for the growth of oceanic phytoplankton and terrestrial ecosystems, which in turn contributes to CO2 sequestration. The solid-phase speciation of P will influence its solubility and hence its availability to such ecosystems. This study reports on the results of X-ray diffraction, electron microprobe chemical analysis and X-ray mapping, chemical extractions and X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy analysis carried out to determine the solid-phase speciation of P in dusts and their source sediments from the Saharan Bodélé Depression, the world's greatest single source of dust. Chemical extraction data suggest that the Bodélé dusts contain 28 to 60% (mean 49%) P sorbed to, or co-precipitated with, Fe (hydr)oxides, < 10% organic P, 21–50% (mean 32%) detrital apatite P, and 10–22% (mean 15%) authigenic–biogenic apatite P. This is confirmed by the other analyses, which also suggest that the authigenic–biogenic apatite P is likely fish bone and scale, and that this might form a larger proportion of the apatite pool (33 +/− 22%) than given by the extraction data. This is the first-ever report of fish material in aeolian dust, and it is significant because P derived from fish bone and scale is relatively soluble and is often used as a soil fertilizer. Therefore, the fish-P will likely be the most readily consumed form of Bodélé P during soil weathering and atmospheric processing, but given time and acid dissolution, the detrital apatite, Fe-P and organic-P will also be made available. The Bodélé dust input of P to global ecosystems will only have a limited life, however, because its major source materials, diatomite in the Bodélé Depression, undergo persistent deflation and have a finite thickness.

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