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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Mercury deposition and redox transformation processes in peatland constrained by mercury stable isotopes

Li, Chuxian; Jiskra, Martin; Nilsson, Mats B.; Osterwalder, Stefan; Zhu, Wei; Mauquoy, Dmitri; Skyllberg, Ulf; Enrico, Maxime; Peng, Haijun; Song, Yu; Bjoern, Erik; Bishop, Kevin

Abstract

Peatland vegetation takes up mercury (Hg) from the atmosphere, typically contributing to net production and export of neurotoxic methyl-Hg to downstream ecosystems. Chemical reduction processes can slow down methyl-Hg production by releasing Hg from peat back to the atmosphere. The extent of these processes remains, however, unclear. Here we present results from a comprehensive study covering concentrations and isotopic signatures of Hg in an open boreal peatland system to identify post-depositional Hg redox transformation processes. Isotope mass balances suggest photoreduction of HgII is the predominant process by which 30% of annually deposited Hg is emitted back to the atmosphere. Isotopic analyses indicate that above the water table, dark abiotic oxidation decreases peat soil gaseous Hg0 concentrations. Below the water table, supersaturation of gaseous Hg is likely created more by direct photoreduction of rainfall rather than by reduction and release of Hg from the peat soil. Identification and quantification of these light-driven and dark redox processes advance our understanding of the fate of Hg in peatlands, including the potential for mobilization and methylation of HgII.Mercury isotope signatures in groundwater, soil gas, solid peat, and atmosphere suggest that dark abiotic reduction of peat soil HgII to volatile Hg0 does not play a significant role in mobilizing Hg during peat mass loss

Published in

Nature Communications
2023, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 7389
Publisher: NATURE PORTFOLIO