Environmental archives of atmospheric Hg deposition – A review

Environmental archives offer an opportunity to reconstruct temporal trends in atmospheric Hg deposition at various timescales. Lake sediment and peat have been the most widely used archives; however, new records from ice, tree rings, and the measurement of Hg stable isotopes, are offering new insights into past Hg cycling. Preindustrial Hg deposition has been studied over decadal to millennial timescales extending as far back as the late Pleistocene. Exploitation of mercury deposits (mainly cinnabar) first began during the mid to late Holocene in South America, Europe, and Asia, but increased dramatically during the Colonial era (1532–1900) for silver production. However, evidence for preindustrial Hg pollution is restricted to regions directly downwind or downstream of cinnabar or precious metal mining centers. Excluding these areas, there has been an approximately four-fold increase in atmospheric deposition globally over the industrial era (i.e., since 1800–1850), though regional differences exist, especially during the early 20th Century. Lake sediments, peat, ice, and tree rings are all influenced by (and integrate) a range of processes. For example, lake sediments are influenced by atmospheric deposition, sediment focusing, and the input of allochthonous material from the watershed, peat records reflect atmospheric deposition and biotic uptake, ice cores are a record of Hg scrubbed during precipitation, and tree rings record atmospheric concentrations. No archive represents an absolute record of past Hg deposition or concentrations, and post-depositional transformation of Hg profiles remains an important topic of research. However, natural archives continue to provide important insight into atmospheric Hg cycling over various timescales.

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Field Value
Short Name of Publication environmental-archives-of-atmospheric-hg-deposition-a-review
Deliverable Type Journal article
Program Catagory
Program Type Provincial
Author Cooke, C.A., Martínez-Cortizas, A., Bindler, R., and Gustin, R.S.
Periodical Title Science of the Total Environment
Year of Publication 2019
Publishing Organization
Month of Publication December
Periodical Volumes
Page Range
Digital Object Identifier (DOI) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.134800
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