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Environ Sci Technol. 2009 May 15;43(10):3569-73.

Temperature sensitivity indicates that chlorination of organic matter in forest soil is primarily biotic.

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Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Old assumptions that chloride is inert and that most chlorinated organic matter in soils is anthropogenic have been challenged by findings of naturally formed organochlorines. Such natural chlorination has been recognized for several decades, but there are still very few measurements of chlorination rates or estimates of the quantitative importance of terrestrial chlorine transformations. While much is known about the formation of specific compounds, bulk chlorination remains poorly understood in terms of mechanisms and effects of environmental factors. We quantified bulk chlorination rates in coniferous forest soil using 36Cl-chloride in tracer experiments at different temperatures and with and without molecular oxygen (O2). Chlorination was enhanced by the presence of O2 and had a temperature optimum at 20 degrees C. Minimum rates were found at high temperatures (50 degrees C) or under anoxic conditions. The results indicate (1) that most of the chlorination between 4 and 40 degrees C was biotic and driven by O2 dependent enzymes, and (2) that there is also slower background chlorination occurring under anoxic conditions at 20 degrees C and under oxic conditions at 50 degrees C. Hence, while oxic and biotic chlorination clearly dominated, chlorination by other processes including possible abiotic reactions was also detected.

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