The transformation mechanisms of Cr(VI) in agricultural soils at the molecular level remain largely unknown due to the multitude of abiotic and biotic factors. In this study, the different speciation and distribution of Cr in two types of agricultural soil (Ultisol and Fluvo-aquic soils) after two weeks of aging was investigated using synchrotron-based X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, microfocused X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) and X-ray transmission microscopy (STXM). The microbial community structure of the two soils was also analyzed via high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA. Cr(VI) availability was relatively lower in the Ultisol than in the Fluvo-aquic soil after aging. Cr K-edge bulk XANES and STXM analysis indicated that Cr(VI) was reduced to Cr(III) in both soils. μ-XRF analysis and STXM analysis indicated the predominant association of Cr with Mn/Fe oxides and/or organo-Fe oxides in both soils. Additionally, STXM-coupled imaging and multiedge XANES analyses demonstrated that carboxylic groups were involved in the reduction of Cr(VI) and subsequent retention of Cr(III). 16S rRNA analysis showed considerably different bacterial communities across the two soils. Redundancy analysis (RDA) suggested that soil properties, including the total carbon content, Fe oxide component and pH, were closely linked to Cr(VI)-reducing functional bacteria in the Ultisol, including chromium-reducing bacteria (CRB) (e.g., Bacillus sp.) and dissimilatory iron-reducing (DIRB) (e.g., Shewanella sp.) bacteria, which possibly promoted Cr(VI) reduction. These findings shed light on the molecular-level transformation mechanisms of Cr(VI) in agricultural soils, which facilitates the effective management of Cr-enriched farmland.
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