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Environmentally persistent free radicals are ubiquitous in wildfire charcoals and remain stable for years

Gabriel Sigmund, Cristina Santin Nuno, Marc Pignitter, Nathalie Tepe, Stefan Doerr Orcid Logo, Thilo Hofmann

Communications Earth & Environment, Volume: 2, Issue: 1

Swansea University Authors: Cristina Santin Nuno, Stefan Doerr Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Globally landscape fires produce about 256 Tg of pyrogenic carbon or charcoal each year. The role of charcoal as a source of environmentally persistent free radicals, which are precursors of potentially harmful reactive oxygen species, is poorly constrained. Here, we analyse 60 charcoal samples coll...

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Published in: Communications Earth & Environment
ISSN: 2662-4435
Published: Springer Science and Business Media LLC 2021
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa56612
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Abstract: Globally landscape fires produce about 256 Tg of pyrogenic carbon or charcoal each year. The role of charcoal as a source of environmentally persistent free radicals, which are precursors of potentially harmful reactive oxygen species, is poorly constrained. Here, we analyse 60 charcoal samples collected from 10 wildfires, that include crown as well as surface fires in forest, shrubland and grassland spanning different boreal, temperate, subtropical and tropical climate. Using electron spin resonance spectroscopy, we measure high concentrations of environmentally persistent free radicals in charcoal samples, much higher than those found in soils. Concentrations increased with degree of carbonization and woody fuels favoured higher concentrations. Moreover, environmentally persistent free radicals remained stable for an unexpectedly long time of at least 5 years. We suggest that wildfire charcoal is an important global source of environmentally persistent free radicals, and therefore potentially of harmful reactive oxygen species.
College: College of Science
Funders: C.S. and S.H.D. acknowledge funding by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (Grant NE/R011125/1). This article was supported by the Open Access Publishing Fund of the University of Vienna.
Issue: 1