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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31887

Title: Hydrological, Biogeochemical and Landscape Controls on Mercury Distribution and Mobility in a Boreal Shield Soil Landscape
Authors: Oswald, Claire Jocelyn
Advisor: Branfireun, Brian
Department: Geography
Keywords: catchment hydrology
mercury biogeochemistry
Issue Date: 11-Jan-2012
Abstract: Mercury (Hg)-contaminated freshwater fisheries are a global toxicological concern. Previous research suggests that the slow release of Hg in runoff from upland soils may delay the recovery of Hg-contaminated aquatic systems. Four complementary studies were undertaken in a small boreal Shield headwater catchment as part of the Mercury Experiment to Assess Atmospheric Loading in Canada and the U.S. (METAALICUS) to assess the controls on the retention and release of historically-deposited Hg (ambient Hg) and newly-deposited (spike Hg) in the soil landscape. In the first study, hydrometric and GIS-based methods were used to quantify thresholds in terrestrial water storage and their relationship to observed rainfall-runoff response. It was found that event-scale hydrologic response displayed a threshold relationship with antecedent storage in the terminal depression and predictions of event runoff improved when storage excesses from upslope depressions were explicitly routed through the catchment. In the second study, it was shown that the dominant source of ambient Hg to the lake was likely derived from shallow soil-water flowing through the lower, well-humified organic soil horizon. Throughout the catchment, ambient Hg to soil organic carbon (SOC) ratios increased with depth and the experimentally-applied spike Hg was concentrated in the surface litter layer, suggesting that the vertical redistribution of Hg in the soil profile is a function of the rate of decomposition of SOC. In the third study, canopy type was found to be a good predictor of ambient Hg and spike Hg stocks in the lower organic horizon, while drainage conditions were not, suggesting that vertical fluxes of Hg dominate over lateral fluxes in topographically-complex landscapes. Lastly, it was shown that catchment discharge, antecedent depression storage and antecedent precipitation were the best predictors of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), ambient Hg and spike Hg concentrations in catchment runoff. A comparison of DOC, ambient Hg and spike Hg dynamics for two storm events showed that distinct shifts occurred in the concentration-discharge relationship as a result of differences in antecedent moisture conditions. Combined, the results of the four studies demonstrate the need to incorporate hydrological, biogeochemical and landscape controls into predictive models of terrestrial-aquatic Hg export.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31887
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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