Project Overview

Global mercury contamination largely results from direct primary atmospheric and secondary legacy emissions, which can be deposited to ecosystems, converted to methylmercury, and bioaccumulated along food chains. We examined organic horizon soil samples collected across an elevational gradient on Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondack region of New York State, USA to determine spatial patterns in methylmercury concentrations across a forested montane landscape. We found that soil methylmercury concentrations were highest in the mid-elevation coniferous zone (0.39 ± 0.07 ng/g) compared to the higher elevation alpine zone (0.28 ± 0.04 ng/g) and particularly the lower elevation deciduous zone (0.17 ± 0.02 ng/g), while the percent of total mercury as methylmercury in soils decreased with elevation. We also found a seasonal pattern in soil methylmercury concentrations, with peak methylmercury values occurring in July. Given elevational patterns in temperature and bioavailable total mercury (derived from mineralization of soil organic matter), soil methylmercury concentrations appear to be driven by soil processing of ionic Hg, as opposed to atmospheric deposition of methylmercury. These methylmercury results are consistent with spatial patterns of mercury concentrations in songbird species observed from other studies, suggesting that future declines in mercury emissions could be important for reducing exposure of mercury to montane avian species.


Quantify differences in the pathways of Hg deposition across elevational zones and the efficiency of its transfer to biota by measuring %MeHg in soil and biota on a mountain transect at Whiteface Mt, NY.

Dataset Availability

Downloadable: 4 datasets

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Status - Completed

Start date: 2014-01-01

End date: 2017-12-31

Study Area

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