Oxygen Isotope Signatures of Phosphate in Wildfire Ash

Laura Bigio*, Alon Angert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Atmospheric aerosol deposition is a significant source of phosphorus (P) in many terrestrial and marine ecosystems worldwide, influencing their biogeochemistry and primary production. Particles emitted from wildfires (hereafter, ash) are the second most important source of atmospheric P after airborne dust. In this study, we aim to identify the signature of ash oxygen isotopes in phosphate. This will enable the use of this signature for the separation of ash from other atmospheric P sources. We measured P concentrations and δ18OP in ash from natural and experimental fires and also from ash heated at different temperatures. The HCl and resin P concentrations (average ± SE) were 3.15 ± 0.35 and 1 ± 0.1 mg g-1, respectively. The HCl and resin δ18OP were 15.5 ± 0.4 and 14.7 ± 0.4‰ (average ± SE), respectively. Based on previous studies, we suggest possible isotope exchange reactions during the combustion process, between oxygen in phosphate and oxygen from other probable sources (i.e., the atmosphere, and CaCO3 and CaO formed in the ash). The unique isotopic signature in the ash, ranging from 11.5 to 19.4‰ in the HCl and resin P fractions, is different from that of other atmospheric P sources such as airborne tree pollen, which has δ18OP values between 19.2‰ and 29.6‰, and Saharan-dust samples collected in Israel, which have δ18OP values ranging from 20.7‰ to 22.6‰. Thus, the δ18OP can be used as a marker for identifying atmospheric P from wildfires and for estimating its importance to the global P cycle.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)760-769
Number of pages10
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - 16 May 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.


  • Aerosols
  • Ash
  • Combustion
  • Isotopic signature
  • Oxygen isotopes
  • Phosphate
  • Phosphorus
  • Wildfires


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