Elemental Composition of Natural Nanoparticles and Fine Colloids in European Forest Stream Waters and Their Role as Phosphorus Carriers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Biogeochemical cycling of elements largely occurs in dissolved state, but many elements may also be bound to natural nanoparticles (NNP, 1-100 nm) and fine colloids (100-450 nm). We examined the hypothesis that the size and composition of stream water NNP and colloids vary systematically across Europe. To test this hypothesis, 96 stream water samples were simultaneously collected in 26 forested headwater catchments along two transects across Europe. Three size fractions (~1-20 nm, >20-60 nm, and >60 nm) of NNP and fine colloids were identified with Field Flow Fractionation coupled to inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and an organic carbon detector. The results showed that NNP and fine colloids constituted between 2 ± 5% (Si) and 53 ± 21% (Fe; mean ± SD) of total element concentrations, indicating a substantial contribution of particles to element transport in these European streams, especially for P and Fe. The particulate contents of Fe, Al, and organic C were correlated to their total element concentrations, but those of particulate Si, Mn, P, and Ca were not. The fine colloidal fractions >60 nm were dominated by clay minerals across all sites. The resulting element patterns of NNP <60 nm changed from North to South Europe from Fe- to Ca-dominated particles, along with associated changes in acidity, forest type, and dominant lithology.


  • N. Gottselig
  • Wulf Amelung
  • J. W. Kirchner
  • R. Bol
  • W. Eugster
  • S. J. Granger
  • C. Hernández-Crespo
  • Falko F. H. Herrmann
  • J. J. Keizer
  • M. Korkiakoski
  • H. Laudon
  • Stefan Löfgren
  • A Lohila
  • C. J.A. Macleod
  • C. Müller
  • P. Nasta
  • V. Nischwitz
  • Eugénie Paul-Limoges
  • M. C. Pierret
  • K Pilegaard
  • N. Romano
  • M. T. Sebastià
  • M. Stähli
  • M. Voltz
  • Harry Vereecken
  • J. Siemens
  • E. Klumpp
External organisations
  • University of Bonn
  • ETH Zürich
  • Rothamsted Research
  • Polytechnic University of Valencia
  • University of Aveiro
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
  • University of Naples Federico II
  • Technical University of Denmark
  • Justus Liebig University Giessen
  • Jülich Research Centre
  • WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • James Hutton Institute
  • University of Lleida
  • Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia
  • INRA National Institute of Agricultural Research
  • University of Strasbourg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geosciences, Multidisciplinary


  • Colloids, Forest, Nanoparticles, Phosphorus, Stream, Water
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1592-1607
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number10
Early online date2017 Oct 26
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct
Publication categoryResearch