Mercury Transport in a High-Elevation Watershed in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
- Cite this article as:
- Mast, M.A., Campbell, D.H., Krabbenhoft, D.P. et al. Water Air Soil Pollut (2005) 164: 21. doi:10.1007/s11270-005-1657-z
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Mercury (Hg) was measured in stream water and precipitation in the Loch Vale watershed in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, during 2001–2002 to investigate processes controlling Hg transport in high-elevation ecosystems. Total Hg concentrations in precipitation ranged from 2.6 to 36.2 ng/L and showed a strong seasonal pattern with concentrations that were 3 to 4 times higher during summer months. Annual bulk deposition of Hg was 8.3 to 12.4 μ g/m2 and was similar to deposition rates in the Midwestern and Northeastern U.S. Total Hg concentrations in streams ranged from 0.8 to 13.5 ng/L and were highest in mid-May on the rising limb of the snowmelt hydrograph. Stream-water Hg was positively correlated with dissolved organic carbon suggesting organically complexed Hg was flushed into streams from near-surface soil horizons during the early stages of snowmelt. Methylmercury (MeHg) in stream water peaked at 0.048 ng/L just prior to peak snowmelt but was at or below detection (< 0.040 ng/L) for the remainder of the snowmelt season. Annual export of total Hg in Loch Vale streams ranged from 1.2 to 2.3 μ g/m2, which was less than 20% of wet deposition, indicating the terrestrial environment is a net sink of atmospheric Hg. Concentrations of MeHg in stream water and corresponding watershed fluxes were low, indicating low methylation rates or high demethylation rates or both.