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Dopplerite samples gifted to Scotland's National Soil Archive

Dopplerite samples gifted to Scotland's National Soil Archive
"We are pleased to receive this donation of Dopplerite and to be able to secure it for future research to aid our understanding of soil processes and carbon storage over long periods of time"

The National Soil Archive of Scotland, held at the Aberdeen campus of the James Hutton Institute, has added two large samples of Dopplerite to its collection by gift of the executors of Mr William Filshie. Dopplerite is a naturally occurring, but relatively rare, organic material associated with peat deposits. It is a jelly-like, brownish substance related to humic acids that is insoluble in water and, if dried, it initially becomes brittle and eventually becomes as hard as coal.

The Dopplerite, named after the Austrian mathematician and physicist Christian Doppler, who also gave his name to the ‘Doppler’ effect, was originally found by Mr William Filshie, father of the Executors. Mr Filshie was co-owner and partner in the firm of J M Filshie & Sons, who owned and managed the Snabe sand and gravel quarry at Drumclog, near Strathaven, Lanarkshire.

The Dopplerite deposit was found within a glacio-fluvial sand deposit 13cm below a 3m layer of peat and measured 23cm wide by 30cm deep and extended for 7.5m. The sand would have been deposited at the end of the last Ice Age as the glaciers that covered Scotland melted. Radio-carbon dating of the Dopplerite deposit suggested that the deposit was around 2,850 years old in 1987.

In 1987, Mr Filshie sent a specimen sample to the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, one of the predecessor institutes that formed the James Hutton Institute. The samples were then subjected to a range of physical and chemical analyses including ultra-sound dispersal, infra-red spectroscopy, acid hydrolysis, gas chromatography and elemental analysis to determine the carbon content.

The Dopplerite sample was found to contain about 75% water with the remainder of the deposit comprising ash (18%) and organic material (7%). The humic acid component was found to be like that found in sphagnum, a peat-forming plant, and the ash (mineral component) was mainly calcium and iron.

Previous research has suggested that the Dopplerite was formed by the leaching of humic acids from the peat into a gap in the sand deposit and mixed with calcium and iron to form a gel. There was a 5cm thick iron pan in the sand at the base of the peat showing that iron was also being leached through the soil.

Mr Filshie's executors said: "Our father, the late William Filshie, retained the dopplerite samples after they were analysed in 1987. He was delighted to be able to put a name to the strange substance that was uncovered as they dug the sand from Snabe quarry. In all his years as a quarrymaster, he had never seen such a substance. We are delighted these samples will now be archived for future generations."

Dr Allan Lilly, curator of the National Soil Archive, commented: "We are pleased to receive this donation of Dopplerite and to be able to secure it for future research to aid our understanding of soil processes and carbon storage over long periods of time."

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Printed from /news/dopplerite-samples-gifted-scotlands-national-soil-archive on 28/10/21 12:35:11 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.