Recent Published Articles

Riverine sulfate sources and behaviors in arid environment, Northwest China: Constraints from sulfur and oxygen isotopes

Zhifang Xu , Yifu Xu , Wenjing Liu , Bing Xu


Received November 25, 2022,Revised , Accepted March 15, 2023, Available online March 28, 2023

Volume 36,2024,Pages 716-731

The fate of riverine sulfate ion (SO42-) and its environmental effects in arid environment are difficult to evaluate due to its complicated sources and strongly coupled behaviors with water cycle which is significantly modified by humans. To understand the sulfur cycle in aquatic systems in arid environment, the chemical and sulfur and oxygen isotopic compositions (δ34SSO4 and δ18OSO4) of major rivers around the Badain Jaran Desert, northwestern China, were investigated. These rivers had averaged SO42- content at 1336 µmol/L, over 10 times higher than the global average. The δ34SSO4 and δ18OSO4 values ranged from -5.3‰ to +11.8‰ and +1.6‰ to +12.8‰, respectively. The end-member analysis and the inverse model showed that riverine sulfate was mainly derived from evaporites dissolution (0-87%), sulfide oxidation (13%-100%) and precipitation (0-33%), indicating heterogeneity in sulfur sources and behaviors along the river drainage with the lithology variations and climate gradients. Multiple isotopic tools combining with hydro-chemistry compositions could be applied to reveal sulfur cycle in arid environment. Based on the calculation, sulfide oxidation plays the primary role in the headwater and upstream in the Qilian-Mountains area, where sulfide is widely exposed. While the proportion of evaporites dissolution contributing to riverine sulfate is much higher in downstream in a drier environment. Besides, less precipitation and higher temperature can lead to more intensive evaporation, affecting the process of sulfide oxidation and enhancing the rates of evaporites dissolution and sulfate precipitation in the basin.

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