Concentration, spatiotemporal distribution, and sources of mercury in Mt. Yulong, a remote site in southeastern Tibetan Plateau

Abstract

The unique geographic location of Mt. Yulong in the Tibetan Plateau (TP) makes it a favorable site for mercury (Hg) study. Various snow samples, such as surface snow, snow pit, and snowmelt water were collected from Mt. Yulong in the southeastern TP. The average concentration of Hg was found to be 37 ± 26 ng L−1 (mean ± SD), comparable to Hg concentration from other parts of TP in the same year, though it was comparatively higher than those from previous years, suggesting a possible increase of Hg concentration over the TP. The concentration of Hg was higher in the lower elevation of the glaciers possibly due to the surface melting concentration of particulates. Higher concentration of Hg was observed in the fresh snow, suggesting the possibility of long-range transportation. The average concentration of Hg from the snow pit was 1.49 ± 0.78 ng L−1, and the concentration of Hg in the vertical profile of the snow pit co-varied with calcium ion (Ca2+) supporting the fact that the portion of Hg is from the crustal origin. In addition, the principal component analysis (PCA) confirmed that the source of Hg is from the crustal origin; however, the presence of anthropogenic source in the Mt. Yulong was also observed. In surface water around Mt. Yulong, the concentration of HgT was found in the order of Lashihai Lake > Reservoirs > Rivers > Swamps > Luguhu Lake. In lake water, the concentration of HgT showed an increasing trend with depth. Overall, the increased concentration of Hg in recent years from the TP can be of concern and may have an adverse impact on the downstream ecosystem, wildlife, and human health.

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Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank the field staff for their diligent and excellent collaborative work. The authors are also grateful to everyone who has been directly or indirectly involved in this study.

Funding

This work was supported by Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of 522 Sciences, Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE) (XDA20040501), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41630754, 41671074), and the Foundation of State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (SKLCS-ZZ-2018)

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Paudyal, R., Kang, S., Tripathee, L. et al. Concentration, spatiotemporal distribution, and sources of mercury in Mt. Yulong, a remote site in southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 16457–16469 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05005-4

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Keywords

  • Mercury
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • Glacier
  • Snow
  • Mt. Yulong
  • Baishui Glacier No. 1