Forest fire effects on mercury deposition in the boreal forest

Emma L. Witt, Randall K. Kolka, Edward A. Nater, Trent R. Wickman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Particulate Hg (pHg) is a component of smoke from biomass burning and has the potential for local redeposition. Throughfall (precipitation collected beneath a conifer or deciduous canopy) and open precipitation samples were collected pre-and postfire in 2005 and 2006 using passive precipitation collectors across the Superior National Forest, located in northern Minnesota, USA. Samples were collected approximately every two weeks and analyzed for total Hg (THg) and methyl Hg (MeHg). THg concentrations increased significantly postfire in conifer throughfall (≥4× increase), open precipitation (2.5×), and when all canopy types were considered (2.9×). MeHg concentrations also increased after fire regardless of the cover type (conifer throughfall: 10×increase; open precipitation: 3.5× increase; deciduous throughfall: 1.7× increase; all canopy types analyzed together: 8× increase). Total Hg deposition increased significantly under conifer cover (3.8×). Methyl Hg deposition increased significantly after fire when all canopy types were analyzed together (4.6×) and in conifer throughfall (5.9×). Canopy type influenced the magnitude of postfire THg and MeHg increase and the duration of elevated MeHg levels. Particulate Hg present in forest fire smoke represents a short-term source of increased Hg in the atmosphere that is available for local redeposition during and following fire.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1776-1782
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2009


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