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Sulfur that doesn't stay put.

Sulfur that doesn't stay put

The emission of sulfur compounds from marshes, bogs and other wetlands may account for as much as 30 percent of the sulfur pollutants found in the atmosphere in remote areas of Canada, according to data collected by a team of researchers at the National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ontario. However, the data also suggest that much of this marsh-emitted sulfur may have started out as sulfur emissions from coal-burning power plants or other industrial sources, deposited in the bog by acid rain and then reemitted considerably later in a somewhat different form. "Reemission of previously deposited pollutant sulfur in soils and wetlands may be an important phenomenon that has not been recognized previously,' Jerome O. Nriagu and his colleagues report in the Sept. 4 SCIENCE. "Its role in the continuing acidification of the environment even after reduction of the quantity of anthropogenic sulfur emissions should be a matter of concern.'

The researchers collected their data over a four-year period by regularly taking precipitation samples at a remote location in northern Ontario. They also took water samples from selected bogs and marshes to determine dimethyl sulfide concentrations. By measuring variations in the ratio of two sulfur isotopes, they were able to trace the flow of sulfur through the environment.

The Canadian study is one of the first to identify the role that inland aquatic ecosystems may play in contributing to atmospheric sulfur levels. Researchers were already aware of the large quantities of sulfur emitted as the result of biological activity in oceans. Nevertheless, in both cases, the impact of human activities often outweighs natural contributions.
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Title Annotation:bog-emitted sulfur may be traced to coal-burning factories
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 26, 1987
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