Interpretation of complexometric titration data: An intercomparison of methods for estimating models of trace metal complexation by natural organic ligands

I. Pižeta, S. G. Sander, R. J.M. Hudson, D. Omanović, O. Baars, K. A. Barbeau, K. N. Buck, R. M. Bundy, G. Carrasco, P. L. Croot, C. Garnier, L. J.A. Gerringa, M. Gledhill, K. Hirose, Y. Kondo, L. M. Laglera, J. Nuester, M. J.A. Rijkenberg, S. Takeda, B. S. TwiningM. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the common goal of more accurately and consistently quantifying ambient concentrations of free metal ions and natural organic ligands in aquatic ecosystems, researchers from 15 laboratories that routinely analyze trace metal speciation participated in an intercomparison of statistical methods used to model their most common type of experimental dataset, the complexometric titration. All were asked to apply statistical techniques that they were familiar with to model synthetic titration data that are typical of those obtained by applying state-of-the-art electrochemical methods - anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV) and competitive ligand equilibration-adsorptive cathodic stripping voltammetry (CLE-ACSV) - to the analysis of natural waters. Herein, we compare their estimates for parameters describing the natural ligands, examine the accuracy of inferred ambient free metal ion concentrations ([Mf]), and evaluate the influence of the various methods and assumptions used on these results.The ASV-type titrations were designed to test each participant's ability to correctly describe the natural ligands present in a sample when provided with data free of measurement error, i.e., random noise. For the three virtual samples containing just one natural ligand, all participants were able to correctly identify the number of ligand classes present and accurately estimate their parameters. For the four samples containing two or three ligand classes, a few participants detected too few or too many classes and consequently reported inaccurate 'measurements' of ambient [Mf]. Since the problematic results arose from human error rather than any specific method of analyzing the data, we recommend that analysts should make a practice of using one's parameter estimates to generate simulated (back-calculated) titration curves for comparison to the original data. The root-mean-squared relative error between the fitted observations and the simulated curves should be comparable to the expected precision of the analytical method and upon visual inspection the distribution of residuals should not be skewed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalMarine Chemistry
StatePublished - 2015


  • Complexation
  • Data analysis
  • Equilibrium constant
  • Metal ions
  • Multi-window titration
  • Organic ligands
  • Speciation
  • Titration
  • Voltammetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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