Mercury sequestration in forests and peatlands: A review

D. F. Grigal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

293 Scopus citations


Nearly all Hg in vegetation is derived directly from the atmosphere. Mass of Hg in forest vegetation (roughly 0.1 mg m-2) is about an order of magnitude smaller than that in the forest floor (1 mg m-2) and two orders of magnitude smaller than that in the mineral soil (10 mg m-2). Mass of Hg in peat (20 mg m-2) is greater than the sum of that in mineral soil and the forest floor; wetlands usually sequester more Hg than associated uplands. The strong relationship of Hg to organic matter, associated with binding by reduced S groups, is fundamental to understanding Hg distribution and behavior in terrestrial systems. The stoichiometry of the Hg-C relationship varies; Hg-S relationships, though less variable, are not constant. Because of the Hg-organic matter link, landscape conditions that lead to differential soil organic matter accumulation are likely to lead to differential Hg accumulation. The ratio of methylmercury (MeHg) to total Hg is generally low in both vegetation (near 1.5%) and soil (<1%), but areas of poorly drained soils and wetlands are sites of MeHg production. The annual emission of anthropic Hg from the 48 contiguous states of the USA (144 Mg) is two orders of magnitude less than the pool of Hg in forests of those states (30 300 Mg). Peatlands, less than 2% of total land area, sequester more than 20 times annual emissions (2930 Mg). If global climate change affects C storage it will indirectly affect Hg storage, having a major effect on the balance between emissions and sequestration and on the global Hg cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-405
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003


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