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Rare earth element distributions and trends in natural waters with a focus on groundwater.
Systematically varying properties and reactivities have led to focused research of the environmental forensic capabilities of rare earth elements (REE). Increasing anthropogenic inputs to natural systems may permanently alter the natural signatures of REE, motivating characterization of natural REE variability. We compiled and analyzed reported dissolved REE concentration data over a wide range of natural water types (ground-, ocean, river, and lake water) and groundwater chemistries (e.g., fresh, brine, and acidic) with the goal of quantifying the extent of natural REE variability, especially for groundwater systems. Quantitative challenges presented by censored data were addressed with nonparametric distributions and regressions. Reported measurements of REE in natural waters range over nearly 10 orders of magnitude, though the majority of measurements are within 2-4 orders of magnitude, and are highly correlated with one another. Few global correlations exist among dissolved abundance and bulk solution properties in groundwater, indicating the complex nature of source-sink terms and the need for care when comparing results between studies. This collection, homogenization, and analysis of a disparate literature facilitates interstudy comparison and provides insight into the wide range of variables that influence REE geochemistry.