Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 80, Issue 1, pp 455–465

Subcatchment output of mercury and methylmercury at Svartberget in northern Sweden


  • Y. H. Lee
    • Swedish Environmental Research Institute
  • K. Bishop
    • Dept. of Forest EcologySwedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • C. Pettersson
    • Dept. of Water and Environmental StudiesLinköping University
  • Å. Iverfeldt
    • Swedish Environmental Research Institute
  • B. Allard
    • Dept. of Water and Environmental StudiesLinköping University
Part V Mercury Dynamics in Watersheds

DOI: 10.1007/BF01189695

Cite this article as:
Lee, Y.H., Bishop, K., Pettersson, C. et al. Water Air Soil Pollut (1995) 80: 455. doi:10.1007/BF01189695


The subcatchments of two tributaries and the headwater mire of the 50 ha Swartberget catchment were studied. Monthly sampling was conducted during 1993 on the two tributaries and at the outlet of a mire. This was complemented by more intensive sampling during spring flood and a rain-driven episode at the end of July. Samples were analyzed for total methylmercury (MeHg), total mercury (Hg-tot) and TOC. The MeHg and TOC content of water were also fractionated into humic and non-humic components. Outputs budgets based on continuous flow monitoring and monthly volume weighted average concentrations of MeHg/ Hg were calculated for the subcatchments of the two tributaries and the mire. There was a pronounced decline in MeHg concentrations at all sampling locations during the spring flood. A clear pattern of the seasonal variation in the MeHg outputs was evident at all three sampling locations. Minimum MeHg concentrations occurred during spring flood and increased during the summer to peak levels in the autumn before tapering off during the winter (except for at the mire). The mire had larger increases in MeHg concentrations during the summer and did not decline during the winter. The warmth and increased soil humidity may promote the biogeochemical processes, including methylation, demethylation which make MeHg available for export by runoff from the soil. Variations in Hg-tot concentrations were differed from MeHg in streams that there were increases in Hg-tot concentrations with flow during both spring flood and the July rain event in runoff from the forested tributaries.

The highest outputs of both humic and non-humic MeHg occurred during summer from all subcatchments. Those high outputs extended into the autumn at the mire. The largest monthly output of Hg-tot was during the spring flood period and the next largest was during the period of summer rainfall. Despite the similarity in mineralogy and atmospheric deposition on the two tributary subcatchments, there was ca 30% larger ouput of MeHg per unit area from the tributary which had deeper riparian peats. The output of Hg-tot, however, was higher on the catchment with the shallower riparian peats. The difference in the geometry of the riparian zone may contribute to these differences in output. The annual output concentrations at the mire outlet of MeHg was 0.65 ng /L and of Hg-tot was 4.04 ng/L. In the main tributary MeHg was 0.42 ng/L and Hg-tot was 3.64 ng/L. In the Västrabäcken tributary, the mean MeHg concerntration was 0.25 ng/L and the Hg-tot concerntration was 4.02 ng/L. Among the three subcatchments the largest annual output fluxes of MeHg were from the mire, 0.16 g/km2*yr, the next from Kallkällbäcken below the mire, 0.12 g/km2*yr, and the lowest from Västrabäcken, 0.08 g/km2*yr.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995