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Title: Sulfur isotopes reveal agricultural changes to the modern sulfur cycle

The environmental fates and consequences of intensive sulfur (S) applications to croplands are largely unknown. In this study, we used S stable isotopes to identify and trace agricultural S from field-to-watershed scales, an initial and timely step toward constraining the modern S cycle. We conducted our research within the Napa River Watershed, California, US, where vineyards receive frequent fungicidal S sprays. We measured soil and surface water sulfate concentrations ([SO42−]) and stable isotopes (δ34S–SO42−), which we refer to in combination as the ‘S fingerprint’. We compared samples collected from vineyards and surrounding forests/grasslands, which receive background atmospheric and geologic S sources. Vineyardδ34S–SO42−values were 9.9 ± 5.9‰ (median ± interquartile range), enriched by ∼10‰ relative to forests/grasslands (−0.28 ± 5.7‰). Vineyards also had roughly three-fold higher [SO42−] than forests/grasslands (13.6 and 5.0 mg SO42−–S l−1, respectively). Napa Riverδ34S–SO42−values, reflecting the watershed scale, were similar to those from vineyards (10.5 ± 7.0‰), despite vineyard agriculture constituting only ∼11% of the watershed area. Combined, our results provide important evidence that agricultural S is traceable at field-to-watershed scales, a critical step toward determining the consequences of agricultural alterations to the modern S cycle.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Publisher / Repository:
IOP Publishing
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. 054032
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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