Weathering and vegetation controls on nickel isotope fractionation in surface ultramafic environments (Albania)

Abstract : The dissolved nickel (Ni) isotopic composition of rivers and oceans presents an apparent paradox. Even though rivers represent a major source of Ni in the oceans, seawater is more enriched in the heavier isotopes than river-water. Additional sources or processes must therefore be invoked to account for the isotopic budget of dissolved Ni in seawater. Weathering of continental rocks is thought to play a major role in determining the magnitude and sign of isotopic fractionation of metals between a rock and the dissolved product. We present a study of Ni isotopes in the rock–soil–plant systems of several ultramafic environments. The results reveal key insights into the magnitude and the control of isotopic fractionation during the weathering of continental ultramafic rocks. This study introduces new constraints on the influence of vegetation during the weathering process, which should be taken into account in interpretations of the variability of Ni isotopes in rivers. The study area is located in a temperate climate zone within the ophiolitic belt area of Albania. The serpentinized peridotites sampled present a narrow range of heavy Ni isotopic compositions (δ60Ni = 0.25 ± 0.16‰, 2SC n = 2). At two locations, horizons within two soil profiles affected by different degrees of weathering all presented light isotopic compositions compared to the parent rock (Δ60Nisoil–rock up to -063‰). This suggests that the soil pool takes up the light isotopes, while the heavier isotopes remain in the dissolved phase. By combining elemental and mineralogical analyses with the isotope compositions determined for the soils, the extent of fractionation was found to be controlled by the secondary minerals formed in the soil. The types of vegetation growing on ultramafic-derived soils are highly adapted and include both Ni-hyperaccumulating species, which can accumulate several percent per weight of Ni, and non-accumulating species. Whole-plant isotopic compositions were found to be isotopically heavier than the soil (Δ60Niwhole plant-soil up to 0.40‰). Fractions of Ni extracted by DTPA (diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid) presented isotopically heavy compositions compared to the soil (Δ60NiDTPA-soil up to 0.89‰), supporting the hypothesis that the dissolved Ni fraction controlled by weathering has a heavy isotope signature. The non-hyperaccumulators (n = 2) were inclined to take up and translocate light Ni isotopes with a large degree of fractionation (Δ60Nileaves-roots up to -0.60‰). For Ni-hyperaccumulators (n = 7), significant isotopic fractionation was observed in the plants in their early growth stages, while no fractionation occurred during later growth stages, when plants are fully loaded with Ni. This suggests that (i) the high-efficiency translocation process involved in hyperaccumulators does not fractionate Ni isotopes, and (ii) the root uptake process mainly controls the isotopic composition of the plant. In ultramafic contexts, vegetation composed of hyperaccumulators can significantly influence isotopic compositions through its remobilization in the upper soil horizon, thereby influencing the isotopic balance of Ni exported to rivers.
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Nicolas Estrade, Christophe Cloquet, Guillaume Echevarria, Thibault Sterckeman, Tenghaobo Deng, et al.. Weathering and vegetation controls on nickel isotope fractionation in surface ultramafic environments (Albania). Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Elsevier, 2015, 423, pp.24 - 35. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2015.04.018⟩. ⟨hal-01771581⟩

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