Detection of Phosphorus in Ice

Detection of Phosphorus in Ice

Author: Veronika Belusa

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for living organisms. In nature it is often present as PO43−. Therefore, detection of PO43− in ice cores is an important tracer for biological activity in the past.

Helle Astrid Kjær, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues have developed a continuous and highly sensitive absorption method for detection of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP; PO43−) in ice cores. After filtering, the reactive phosphorus reacts with molybdate. Absorption at 710 nm is measured in a 2-m liquid waveguide capillary cell (LWCC).

The method has been applied to segments of a shallow firn core from the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS, 75.38° N, 35.56° W). A mean concentration level of 2.74 nM (0.26 ppb) PO43− for the period 1930−2005 with a standard deviation of 1.37 nM (0.13 ppb) PO43− and values reaching as high as 10.52 nM (1 ppb) PO43− were found. Similar levels were detected for the period 1771−1823.
Dust and biogenic particles are seen as the most likely sources of DRP deposited in Northeast Greenland.

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