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Mercury fluxes and reductive processes in the Alps

English title Mercury fluxes and reductive processes in the Alps
Applicant Alewell Christine
Number 113327
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Umweltgeowissenschaften Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Start/End 01.11.2006 - 31.10.2008
Approved amount 127'428.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Environmental Research

Keywords (11)

mercury pollution; ecosystem fluxes; elemental mercury emissions; alpine grasslands; reductive processes; stable isotopes; mercury; emission; soil chemistry; Swiss Alps; plant emission

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Mercury emitted to the atmosphere is a topical issue as it poses a threat to human health and the environment. Recent studies have demonstrated that elemental mercury (Hg0) can be emit-ted in significant amounts not only from anthropogenic sources but also from vegetated terres-trial ecosystems, suggesting that natural sources of mercury are highly underestimated. Other than that, soils are considered effective sinks for atmospheric mercury mainly due to deposition of oxidised mercury species.
Studies with terrestrial soils have indicated that geogenic or depos-ited mercury can be (re-)emitted to the atmosphere mainly in its elemental form. However, due to the lack of direct measurements the importance of mercury emissions from vegetated soil surfaces is still controversial.
Our gradient measurements of the last five months at Zugerberg indicate slight nocturnal depo-sition of Hg0. The same was observed during another campaign at the Seebodenalp. However, our incubation studies with bare soil from Zugerberg revealed contrasting results. When amended with glucose or dried and rewetted, the incubated soil samples responded with veri-table Hg0 emission boosts. Although this reaction could be largely ascribed to microbiological activity, the role of plants growing on the soil surface is still unclear. We therefore need to in-vestigate how and to which extent Hg0 exchange between soils and the atmosphere is governed by vegetation. We intend to tackle this question with a combined approach of controlled labora-tory experiments with vegetated soil samples and Hg0 gradient measurements at Zugerberg, Oensingen (SO) and the Stubai Valley in Austria. These studies will enable us to describe and quantify the long-term dynamic of Hg0 exchange in uncontaminated terrestrial ecosystems.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
105308 Mercury Fluxes and Reductive Processes in the Alps 01.11.2004 Project funding (Div. I-III)
170176 Linkage between deposition and air-surface exchange of mercury in forest ecosystems: a comparative study between Switzerland and China 01.01.2017 Bilateral programmes