Publication Details

Singular and combined effects of blowdown, salvage logging, and wildfire on forest floor and soil mercury pools

Mitchell, Carl P.J.; Kolka, Randall K.; Fraver, Shawn

Year Published

2012

Publication

Environmental Science & Technology. 46(15): 7963-7970.

Abstract

A number of factors influence the amount of mercury (Hg) in forest floors and soils, including deposition, volatile emission, leaching, and disturbances such as fire. Currently the impact on soil Hg pools from other widespread forest disturbances such as blowdown and management practices like salvage logging are unknown. Moreover, ecological and biogeochemical responses to disturbances are generally investigated within a single-disturbance context, with little currently known about the impact of multiple disturbances occurring in rapid succession. In this study we capitalize on a combination of blowdown, salvage logging and fire events in the sub-boreal region of northern Minnesota to assess both the singular and combined effects of these disturbances on forest floor and soil total Hg concentrations and pools. Although none of the disturbance combinations affected Hg in mineral soil, we did observe significant effects on both Hg concentrations and pools in the forest floor. Blowdown increased the mean Hg pool in the forest floor by 0.76 mg Hg -2 (223%). Salvage logging following blowdown created conditions leading to a significantly more severe forest floor burn during wildfire, which significantly enhanced Hg emission. This sequence of combined events resulted in a mean loss of approximately 0.42 mg Hg m-2 (68% of pool) from the forest floor, after conservatively accounting for potential losses via enhanced soil leaching and volatile emissions between the disturbance and sampling dates. Fire alone or blowdown followed by fire did not significantly affect the total Hg concentrations or pools in the forest floor. Overall, unexpected consequences for soil Hg accumulation and by extension, atmospheric Hg emission and risk to aquatic biota, may result when combined impacts are considered in addition to singular forest floor and soil disturbances.

Citation

Mitchell, Carl P.J.; Kolka, Randall K.; Fraver, Shawn. 2012. Singular and combined effects of blowdown, salvage logging, and wildfire on forest floor and soil mercury pools. Environmental Science & Technology. 46(15): 7963-7970. https://doi.org/10.1021/es300133h.

Last updated on: October 14, 2014