Atmospheric deposition and re-emission of mercury estimated in a prescribed forest-fire experiment in Florida, USA
Prescribed fires are likely to re-emit atmospherically deposited mercury (Hg), and comparison of soil Hg storage in areas affected by prescribed fire to that in similar unburned areas may provide cross-validating estimates of atmospheric Hg deposition. Prescribed fires are common in the southeastern United States (US), a region of relatively high Hg deposition compared to the rest of the US, and are thus a potentially significant source of re-emitted atmospheric Hg. Accordingly, Hg was determined in soil layers of a prescribed fire experiment in a Florida longleaf pine forest. The Hg deficit in the annually burned forest floor relative to the forest floor unburned for 46 years (0.180 g ha-1 yr-1) a p e d to within 5% of an independent estimate of Hg deposition for this site based on a regional monitoring network and computer model (0.171 g ha-1 yr-1). Consideration of other potential inputs and outputs of Hg suggested that atmospheric deposition was the primary input of Hg to the site. If extrapolated, these results suggest that prescribed fires in the southeastern US mainly re-emit atmospherically deposited Hg and that this re-emission is less than 1% of total US anthropogenic emissions. However, emissions at other sites may vary due to the possible presence of Hg in underlying geological strata and differences in fire regime and levels of atmospheric Hg deposition.