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Spatial distribution and temporal trends of mercury and arsenic in remote timberline coniferous forests, eastern of the Tibet Plateau, China


An intensive investigation was conducted to study the spatial distribution and temporal variety trend of mercury and arsenic in plant tissue and soil profile in the eastern of the Tibet Plateau and to explore the possible sources of these two elements. At present, rare information is available on mercury (Hg) and arsenic (As) of timberline forests in the Tibet Plateau. Here, we present preliminary results on these two elements in leaves, twigs, root, litterfall, and soil. Geostatistical analyst of the ArcGIS 10.0 was used to determine the trait of spatial distribution of these two elements. Total arsenic (TAs) mean concentrations in the leaves, twigs, root, litterfall, and A- and C-layer soil ranged from 0.12 mg kg−1 (n = 60), 0.35 mg kg−1 (n = 60), 0.48 mg kg−1 (n = 42), 1.52 mg kg−1 (n = 84), 16.51 mg kg−1 (n = 69), and 26.72 mg kg−1 (n = 69), respectively. Total Hg (THg) mean concentrations in leaves, twigs, root, litterfall, and A- and C-layer soil were 0.0121 mg kg−1 (n = 60), 0.0078 mg kg−1 (n = 60), 0.0171 mg kg−1 (n = 42), 0.0479 mg kg−1 (n = 84), 0.0852 mg kg−1 (n = 75), and 0.0251 mg kg−1 (n = 75), respectively. In general, litterfall trended to accumulate high concentrations of Hg and As. Mercury in the timberline forest showed an increasing trend, whereas arsenic concentrations showed a decreasing trend in A-layer soil and an increasing trend in C-layer soil due to the easy mobile ability of As. Southwest and southeast monsoon could be the influencing factors, and Hg emission from India and China was the possible source of this study area through using a HYSPLIT (Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory) model. It is believed that these observations may offer scientists and policymakers additional understanding of Hg and As concentrations in the remote timberline area, eastern of the Tibet Plateau.

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This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants nos. 41471416, 41473078, and 40871042). The authors gratefully acknowledge the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model.

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Correspondence to Haiming Wang.

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Responsible editor: Stuart Simpson

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Tang, R., Wang, H., Luo, J. et al. Spatial distribution and temporal trends of mercury and arsenic in remote timberline coniferous forests, eastern of the Tibet Plateau, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 11658–11668 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-4441-7

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  • Geostatistical analyst
  • HYSPLIT model
  • GIS
  • IDW