Modeling Metal Binding to Soils:  The Role of Natural Organic Matter

The use of mechanistically based models to simulate the solution concentrations of heavy metals in soils is complicated by the presence of different sorbents that may bind metals. In this study, the binding of Zn, Pb, Cu, and Cd by 14 different Swedish soil samples was investigated. For 10 of the soils, it was found that the Stockholm Humic Model (SHM) was able to describe the acid−base characteristics, when using the concentrations of “active” humic substances and Al as fitting parameters. Two additional soils could be modeled when ion exchange to clay was also considered, using a component additivity approach. For dissolved Zn, Cd, Ca, and Mg reasonable model fits were produced when the metal-humic complexation parameters were identical for the 12 soils modeled. However, poor fits were obtained for Pb and Cu in Aquept B horizons. In two of the soil suspensions, the Lund A and Romfartuna Bhs, the calculated speciation agreed well with results obtained by using cation-exchange membranes. The results suggest that organic matter is an important sorbent for metals in many surface horizons of soils in temperate and boreal climates, and the necessity of properly accounting for the competition from Al in simulations of dissolved metal concentrations is stressed.