Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 105, Issue 1, pp 427-438

First online:

Factors Controlling Mercury Transport in an Upland Forested Catchment

  • Timothy ScherbatskoyAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources, University of Vermont
  • , James B. ShanleyAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey
  • , Gerald J. KeelerAffiliated withAir Quality Laboratory, University of Michigan

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Total mercury (Hg) deposition and input/output relationships were investigated in an 11-ha deciduous forested catchment in northern Vermont as part of ongoing evaluations of Hg cycling and transport in the Lake Champlain basin. Atmospheric Hg deposition (precipitation + modeled vapor phase downward flux) was 425 mg ha-1 during the one-year period March 1994 through February 1995 and 463 mg ha-1 from March 1995 through February 1996. In the same periods, stream export of total Hg was 32 mg ha-1, respectively. Thus, there was a net retention of Hg by the catchment of 92% the first year and 95% the second year. In the first year, 16.9 mg ha-1 or about half of the annual stream export, occurred on the single day of peak spring snowmelt in April. In contrast, the maximum daily export in the second year, when peak stream flow was somewhat lower, was 3.5 mg ha-1 during a January thaw. The fate of the Hg retained by this forested catchment is not known. Dissolved (< 0.22 µm) Hg concentrations in stream water ranged from 0.5-2.6 ng L-1, even when total (unfiltered) concentrations were greater than 10 ng L-1 during high flow events. Total Hg concentrations in stream water were correlated with the total organic fraction of suspended sediment, suggesting the importance of organic material in Hg transport within the catchment. High flow events and transport with organic material may be especially important mechanisms for the movement of Hg through forested ecosystems.

biogeochemistry catchment input/output budget Lake Champlain watershed mercury forest stream