Inorganic and Organic Sulfur Cycling in Salt-Marsh Pore Waters

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Science  09 May 1986:
Vol. 232, Issue 4751, pp. 746-749
DOI: 10.1126/science.232.4751.746


Sulfur species in pore waters of the Great Marsh, Delaware, were analyzed seasonally by polarographic methods. The species determined (and their concentrations in micromoles per liter) included inorganic sulfides (≤3360), polysulfides (≤326), thiosulfate (≤104), tetrathionate (≤302), organic thiols (≤2411), and organic disulfides (≤139). Anticipated were bisulfide increases with depth due to sulfate reduction and subsurface sulfate excesses and pH minima, the result of a seasonal redox cycle. Unanticipated was the pervasive presence of thiols (for example, glutathione), particularly during periods of biological production. Salt marshes appear to be unique among marine systems in producing high concentrations of thiols. Polysulfides, thiosulfate, and tetrathionate also exhibited seasonal subsurface maxima. These results suggest a dynamic seasonal cycling of sulfur in salt marshes involving abiological and biological reactions and dissolved and solid sulfur species. The chemosynthetic turnover of pyrite to organic sulfur is a likely pathway for this sulfur cycling. Thus, material, chemical, and energy cycles in wetlands appear to be optimally synergistic.