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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department Soil Ecology - Prof. Dr. Eva Lehndorff

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Schwesig, D; Matzner, E: Pools and fluxes of mercury and methylmercury in two forested catchments in Germany, Sci. Total Environment, 260, 213-223 (2000)
Mercury (Hg) and methylmercury (CH3Hg+) are global pollutants, but little information is available on rates of atmospheric input, distribution and mobility in soils and catchments of Central Europe. The objectives of this study were to investigate input and output fluxes of these compounds in a deciduous and a coniferous catchment in NE-Bavaria (Germany), and to estimate pools and mobility of total Hg (Hgtot) and CH3Hg+ at the catchment scale.
Bulk precipitation, throughfall, litterfall and runoff were collected biweekly from April 1998 to April 1999. Several soils profiles were sampled to estimate pools of Hg compounds in the catchments.
In both catchments highest contents of Hgtot were found in the Oa layer of the forest floor (up to 500 ng/g) and the soil storage of Hgtot calculated for a soil depth of 60 cm was about 890 g ha-1 in the coniferous and 190 g ha-1 in the deciduous catchment. Highest contents of CH3Hg+ in upland soils were observed in the Oi layer of the forest floor, and soil storage of CH3Hg+ was 4.35 g ha-1 in the coniferous and 0.59 g ha-1 in the deciduous catchment.
The annual total deposition of Hgtot (total deposition not measured directly but calculated from throughfall and litterfall) was 541 mg ha-1 a-1 in the coniferous and 618 mg ha-1 a-1 in the deciduous catchment. Total deposition rates of CH3Hg+ were 3.5 and 2.6 mg ha-1 a-1. The contribution of litterfall to the total deposition of Hgtot and CH3Hg+ was 55% in the deciduous catchment. In the coniferous catchment, the contribution of litterfall to total deposition was only 29% for Hgtot, but 55% for CH3Hg+.
By far the largest proportion of the deposited CH3Hg+ and Hgtot remained in the catchments (85% in the coniferous, 95% in the deciduous). As compared to remote swedish catchments, deposition and output via runoff of Hgtot were higher, but deposition and output of CH3Hg+ were lower in our catchments. In contrast to other studies, the annual budget revealed no differences in the mobility between the two species at the catchment scale. However, temporal patterns of the runoff fluxes and converse gradients of CH3Hg+ and Hgtot contents in the forest floor indicated differences in mobility on shorter time scales.
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