Methyl Mercury Formation in Hillslope Soils of Boreal Forests: The Role of Forest Harvest and Anaerobic Microbes

Kronberg, Rose-Marie and Jiskra, Martin and Wiederhold, Jan G. and Björn, Erik and Skyllberg, Ulf. (2016) Methyl Mercury Formation in Hillslope Soils of Boreal Forests: The Role of Forest Harvest and Anaerobic Microbes. Environmental science & technology, 50 (17). pp. 9177-9186.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/68587/

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Final harvest (clear-cutting) of coniferous boreal forests has been shown to increase streamwater concentrations and export of the neurotoxin methyl mercury (MeHg) to freshwater ecosystems. Here, the spatial distribution of inorganic Hg and MeHg in soil as a consequence of clear-cutting is reported. A comparison of soils at similar positions along hillslopes in four 80 years old Norway spruce (Picea abies) stands (REFs) with those in four similar stands subjected to clear-cutting (CCs) revealed significantly (p < 0.05) enhanced MeHg concentrations (ng g(-1)), MeHg areal masses (g ha(-1)), and percent MeHg of HgTOT in O horizons of CCs located between 1 and 41 m from streams. Inorganic Hg measures did not differ between REFs and CCs at any position. The O horizon thickness did not differ between CCs and REFs, but the groundwater table and soil water content were significantly higher at CCs than at REFs. The largest difference in percent MeHg of HgTOT (12 times higher at CCs compared to REFs, p = 0.003) was observed in concert with a significant enhancement in soil water content (p = 0.0003) at intermediate hillslope positions (20-38 m from stream), outside the stream riparian zone. Incubation experiments demonstrated that soils having significantly enhanced soil pools of MeHg after clear-cutting also showed significantly enhanced methylation potential as compared with similarly positioned soils in mature reference stands. The addition of inhibitors demonstrated that sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) and methanogens were key methylators. Rates of demethylation did not differ between CCs and REFs. Our results suggest that enhanced water saturation of organic soils providing readily available electron donors stimulate Hg-methylating microbes to net formation and buildup of MeHg in O horizons after forest harvest.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften
UniBasel Contributors:Jiskra, Martin
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:American Chemical Society
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:13 Feb 2019 09:36
Deposited On:13 Feb 2019 09:34

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