Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 112, Issue 3–4, pp 297–313

Effects of Recent Human Colonization on the Presence of Mercury in Amazonian Ecosystems

  • M. Roulet
  • M. Lucotte
  • N. Farella
  • G. Serique
  • H. Coelho
  • C. J. Sousa Passos
  • E. de Jesus da Silva
  • P. Scavone de Andrade
  • D. Mergler
  • J.-R. D. Guimarães
  • M. Amorim
Article

Abstract

Three Hg sources were characterised and mass balance calculations were used to determine their relative contributions to the contamination of the Amazonian environment. About an order of magnitude more Hg is emitted to the atmosphere by goldmining activity than by the burning of forest biomass. However, anthropogenic atmospheric Hg cannot account for the high Hg burdens found in terrestrial ecosystems: deposition of Hg from goldmining sources is estimated to account for less than 3% of the Hg present in the surface horizons of soils. We propose that erosion of deforested soils following human colonization constitutes a major disturbance of the natural Hg cycle. Deforestation thus increases soil Hg mobilisation by runoff, which may explain the increase of Hg burdens in Amazonian aquatic ecosystems in newly colonized watersheds.

Amazonia mercury soil erosion 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Roulet
    • 1
  • M. Lucotte
    • 1
  • N. Farella
    • 1
  • G. Serique
    • 2
  • H. Coelho
    • 2
  • C. J. Sousa Passos
    • 2
  • E. de Jesus da Silva
    • 2
  • P. Scavone de Andrade
    • 2
  • D. Mergler
    • 3
  • J.-R. D. Guimarães
    • 4
  • M. Amorim
    • 5
  1. 1.Chaire de Recherche en Environnement H-Q/CRSNG/UQAMMontréalCanada (author for correspondence, e-mail
  2. 2.Laboratorio de Biologia AmbientalSantarem-UFPa campusBrazil
  3. 3.CINBIOSE, UQAMMontréalCanada
  4. 4.Laboratorio de radioisótopos., Inst. de Biofisica da UFRJRio de JaneiroBrazil
  5. 5.UFPaBelémBrazil

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