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Superoxide (and potentially its conjugate acid hydroperoxyl) is unique among the reactive oxygen species in that its standard redox potential in circumneutral natural waters potentially allows it to reduce ferric iron to the more soluble ferrous state. Here we have observed the superoxide/hydroperoxyl-mediated reduction of ferric complexes with a variety of synthetic organic ligands and several complexes with natural organic matter (NOM), as well as freshly precipitated amorphous ferric oxyhydroxide, in bicarbonate buffered solutions at pH 8.1. From measurements of superoxide decay in the presence of the complexes, we calculated second-order rate constants for superoxide/hydroperoxyl-mediated reduction that vary from (9.3 0.2) x 10(3) M-1 s(-1) for the complex between Fe(III) and desferrioxamine B up to (1.9 +/- 0.2) x 10(5) M-1 s-1 for Fe(III)-salicylate and (2.3 +/- 0.1) x 10(5) M-1 s(-1) for one of the Fe(III)-NOM complexes. We also verified that ferrous iron was produced from superoxide/hydroperoxyl-mediated Fe(III) reduction using ferrozine to trap free Fe(II). Low yields of the ferrozine complex when compared to the measured rates of superoxide decay suggest that ferric complexes are reduced directly to corresponding ferrous complexes, with much of the ferrous complex reoxidizing before it is able to release free ferrous iron. This is an important consideration for microorganisms, as the kinetics of trace metal uptake is typically governed by free ion activity.