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Gaseous mercury fluxes in peatlands and the potential influence of climate change

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Haynes, Kristine M.; Kane, Evan S.; Potvin, Lynette; Lilleskov, Erik A.; Kolka, Randall K.; Mitchell, Carl P.J.

Year Published

2017

Publication

Atmospheric Environment. 154: 247-259.

Abstract

Climate change has the potential to significantly impact the stability of large stocks of mercury (Hg) stored in peatland systems due to increasing temperatures, altered water table regimes and subsequent shifts in vascular plant communities. However, the Hg exchange dynamics between the atmosphere and peatlands are not well understood. At the PEATcosm Mesocosm Facility in Houghton, Michigan, total gaseous Hg (TGM) fluxes were monitored in a subset of 1-m3 peat monoliths with altered water table positions (high and low) and vascular plant functional groups (sedge only, Ericaceae only or unmanipulated control) above the Sphagnum moss layer. At the SPRUCE bog in north-central Minnesota, TGM fluxes were measured from plots subjected to deep peat soil warming (up to +9 °C above ambient at a depth of 2 m). At PEATcosm, the strongest depositional trend was observed with the Low WT – sedge only treatment mesocosms with a mean TGM flux of –73.7 ± 6.3 ng m-2 d-1, likely due to shuttling of Hg to the peat at depth by aerenchymous tissues. The highest total leaf surface and tissue Hg concentrations were observed with the Ericaceae shrubs. A negative correlation between TGM flux and Ericaceae total leaf surface area suggests an influence of shrubs in controlling Hg exchange through stomatal uptake, surface sorption and potentially, peat shading. Surface peat total Hg concentrations are highest in treatments with greatest deposition suggesting deposition controls Hg accumulation in surface peat. Fluxes in the SPRUCE plots ranged from –45.9 ± 93.8 ng m-2 d-1 prior to the implementation of the deep warming treatments to –1.41 ± 27.1 ng m-2 d-1 once warming targets were achieved at depth and +10.2 ± 44.6 ng m-2 d-1 following prolonged deep soil warming. While these intervals did not differ significantly, a significant positive increase in the slope of the regression between flux and surface temperature was observed across the pre-treatment and warming periods. Shifts in vascular vegetation cover and peat warming as a result of climate change may significantly affect the dynamics of TGM fluxes between peatlands and the atmosphere.

Citation

Haynes, Kristine M.; Kane, Evan S.; Potvin, Lynette; Lilleskov, Erik A.; Kolka, Randall K.; Mitchell, Carl P.J. 2017. Gaseous mercury fluxes in peatlands and the potential influence of climate change. Atmospheric Environment. 154: 247-259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.01.049.

Last updated on: February 8, 2017