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Issue 11, 2018
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Emission of formic and acetic acids from two Colorado soils

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A ‘missing source’ of atmospheric formic acid is consistently observed during model-measurement comparisons, and evidence from multiple environments suggests a near-surface source. Soil emissions are considered to be a small formic acid source, but estimates are based on a single study from a tropical site. Here, we investigate soil emissions of organic acids from two soils – a ponderosa pine forest (Manitou Experimental Forest Observatory), and a managed lawn (Colorado State University) using a laboratory chamber. Both soils are a source of formic and acetic acids. Under ambient conditions, formic acid emissions are 0.11 (pine forest) and 0.15 (lawn) nmol m−2 s−1, and acetic acid emissions are 0.05 (pine forest) and 0.71 (lawn) nmol m−2 s−1. Only acetic acid emissions from the forest site correlate with CO2 fluxes, but all formic and acetic acid emissions increase exponentially with temperature. Increasing soil moisture only enhances acetic acid emissions from the forest. Considering this temperature and moisture dependence, we hypothesize that while equilibrium partitioning may contribute to the forest emissions, organic acid emissions from the lawn are likely driven by microbial activity. Lactic acid was emitted from both soils, but not quantified. The observed formic acid emissions are higher than previous measurements, but still low enough that soils are unlikely the ‘missing source’ of atmospheric organic acids, although the variability in the soil source is substantial. We contrast observations to previous parameterizations used in models, and present recommendations for modified parameterizations for formic and acetic acid emission.

Graphical abstract: Emission of formic and acetic acids from two Colorado soils

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Article information

07 Aug 2018
24 Sep 2018
First published
25 Sep 2018

Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2018,20, 1537-1545
Article type

Emission of formic and acetic acids from two Colorado soils

A. Mielnik, M. Link, J. Mattila, S. R. Fulgham and D. K. Farmer, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2018, 20, 1537
DOI: 10.1039/C8EM00356D

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