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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Organic Compounds in the Environment

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Storage in a Typical Cerrado of the Brazilian Savanna


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 3, p. 946-955
    Received: July 8, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): wolfgang.wilcke@tu-berlin.de
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  1. Wolfgang Wilcke *a,
  2. Martin Kraussa,
  3. Juliane Lilienfeinb and
  4. Wulf Amelunga
  1. a Department of Soil Science, Institute of Ecology, Berlin University of Technology, Salzufer 11-12, D-10587 Berlin, Germany
    b Synergy Resource Solutions, Inc., 1755 Hymer Ave., Sparks, NV 89431


There may be important biological sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the global environment, particularly of naphthalene, phenanthrene, and perylene, that originate in the tropics. We (i) studied the distribution of PAHs among different compartments of a typical Cerrado to locate their sources and (ii) quantified the PAH storage of this ecosystem. The sum of 20 PAH (Σ20PAHs) concentrations ranged from 25 to 666 μg kg−1 in plant tissue, 7.4 to 32 μg kg−1 in litterfall, 206 to 287 μg kg−1 in organic soil, and 10 to 79 μg kg−1 in mineral soil. Among the living biomass compartments, the bark had the highest mean PAH concentrations and coarse roots the lowest, indicating that PAHs in the plants originated mainly from aboveground sources. Naphthalene and phenanthrene were the most abundant individual PAHs, together contributing 33 to 96% to the Σ20PAHs concentrations. The total storage of the Σ20PAHs in Cerrado was 7.5 mg m−2 to a 0.15-m soil depth and 49 mg m−2 to a 2-m soil depth. If extrapolated to the entire Brazilian Cerrado region, roughly estimated storages of naphthalene and phenanthrene correspond to 7300 and 400 yr of the published annual emissions in the United Kingdom, respectively. The storage of benzo[a]pyrene, a typical marker for fossil fuel combustion, in the Cerrado only corresponds to 0.19 yr of UK emissions. These results indicate that the Brazilian savanna comprises a huge reservoir of naphthalene and phenanthrene originating most likely from the aboveground parts of the vegetation or associated organisms. Thus, the Cerrado might be a globally important source of these PAHs.

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