Water Air & Soil Pollution

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 667–680

The behavior of mercury in the soil with special emphasis on complexation and adsorption processes - A review of the literature

  • E. Schuster

DOI: 10.1007/BF00342308

Cite this article as:
Schuster, E. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution (1991) 56: 667. doi:10.1007/BF00342308


The behavior of Hg in the soil is mainly controlled by adsorption and desorption processes depending on complexation, the most important ligands in solution being OH, Cl, and organic anions. Since the solubility of HgCl2 and Hg(OH)2 is rather high, the affinity of Hg to these ligands leads to an increased mobility. This is especially true for HgCl2, whereas the hydrolysis of Hg2+ may result in the specific adsorption of Hg on mineral colloids. The high affinity of Hg to S explains the strong binding of Hg to soil organic matter and also the stability of HgS. Further precipitation products than HgS are unlikely to occur, since the activity of Hg2+ remains too low to exceed the solubility product of any other defined Hg compound. It is mainly the physical fractioning of soil organic matter (dissolved vs adsorbed) that determines the behavior and distribution of Hg in soils.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Schuster
    • 1
  1. 1.Soil Science InstituteTU MünchenFreising-WeihenstephanGermany