Impact of Atmospheric Sulphur on Mosses and Stone Monuments: d34S Monitoring in Belgium and Czech Republic

Frantisek Buzek Czech Geological Survey, Klárov 3, P.O.Box 85, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic

Karlien Torfs University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerpen, Belgium

Robert Van Grieken University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerpen, Belgium

An attempt was made to develop a methodology based on sulphur stable isotopes for tracing atmospheric sulphur on the surface of historical monuments. Gypsum crusts formed by reaction of sulphur dioxide with carbonate stone component are the most eye-catching results of atmospheric pollution. The idea to specify the sources of monument deterioration from their sulphur isotope fingerprint was elaborated by (Dequasi and Grey, 1970, Longinelli and Bartelloni, 1978, Pye and Schiavon, 1988, Buzek et al., 1991, Rosch and Schwarz, 1993). The realisation is not straightforward. With necessary assumptions of sufficiently different and constant sulphur isotope composition of sources, we examine products (crusts) which may originate from past and present atmospheric conditions and sources can change with time. Moreover, atmospheric sulphur is always a mixture of sources variable in space according to their nature, climatic and geographic conditions.

The objectives of the study were: (i) to identify sulphur isotope composition of components of atmospheric sulphur at the study site. (ii) to attribute components to individual sources. (iii) how they contribute to recent average atmospheric record at the site. (iv) to compare recent isotope signature of the atmospheric sulphur with the crusts as a product of long -term atmospheric exposition.

Well known procedure (Krouse, 1980) was used for sources identification - an extrapolation of d34S vs concentration plots of short time SO2 records (Damgen et al., 1985). As an average atmospheric signature on the site served a sulphur isotope composition of moss (Nriagu and Glooschenko, 1992). Both air-borne SO2 and mosses were sampled near the monuments and in sufficiently large areas around to follow the spacial variation of the atmospheric sulphur isotope composition. Moss sulphur was checked with crust sulphur giving the differencies between long time and present isotope signatures. Localization of the d34S values from mosses and crusts into geographical maps was helpfull in elucidation of source impacts.

Methodology was verified in two different parts of Europe - Belgium (a densely populated industrial country with numerous local sources with d34S from -8 to 1”), and the Czech Republic (a high level of quite homogenous sulphur pollution with d34S from 2 to 6”).


This study was supported by grants from the Belgium Science Policy Office and the Czech Granting Agency (203/94/0624).


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