Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
16 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 16 Dec 2014

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in post-fire soils of drained peatlands in western Meshchera (Moscow region, Russia)

A. Tsibart, A. Gennadiev, T. Koshovskii, and A. Watts

Abstract. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are priority pollutants that arrive in the environment from numerous anthropogenic and natural sources, but the data on their natural sources including wildfires remain insufficient. The level of contamination and the composition of PAHs in soils of the areas affected by wildfires were studied in this work. The study was conducted in the Moscow region (Russia) in areas occupied by drained peatland and strongly damaged by fires in 2002, 2010 and 2012. The features of PAH accumulation and the profile distributions in histosols and histic podzols after the fires of different times were analyzed. It was shown that new soil horizons formed after the fires – Cpir, Hpir and incipient O horizons – and that these horizons differ in PAH accumulation rate. Maximal total concentrations of 14 PAHs were detected in charred peat horizons Hpir (up to 330 ng g−1) and in post-fire incipient O horizons (up to 180 ng g−1), but the high-molecular-weight PAHs (benz(ghi)perylene, benz(a)pyrene, benz(k)fluoranthene) were revealed only in charry peat horizons. The trends of higher PAH concentrations were found in cases when smoldering combustion resulted in rather thick residual peat horizons. In cases of almost complete pyrogenic destruction of He horizons, total PAH concentrations were no more than 50 ng g−1. Also, PAH accumulation in upper horizons of soils near the sites of the latest fires was observed.