Canadian Forest Service Publications

Mercury in vegetation and organic soil at an upland boreal forest site in Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. 2007. Friedli, H.R.; Radke, L.; Payne, N.J.; McRae, D.J.; Lynham, T.J.; Blake, T.W. Journal of Geophysical Research 112: G01004.

Year: 2007

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28713

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1029/2005JG000061

† This site may require a fee

Mark record


We studied an upland boreal forest plot located in the Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada, to measure the total mercury content in vegetation and organic soil with a view to assessing the potential for mercury release during forest fires. The study area consists of two stands of vegetation regrown after fires 39 and 130 years ago, with different carbon and mercury stocks in vegetation and organic soil. The mercury concentrations in ng g-1 (dry weight) were measured for moss (90-110), leaves (8), needles (10), bark (16-38), lichen (30-227), bole wood (2) and for organic soil layers (120-300). The combined mercury stock increased from 1.01 ± 0.28 to 3.45 ± 0.87 mg m-2 for the two stand ages; 93-97% of the mercury resided in the organic soil to the mineral layer. The mercury input to the ecosystem is from wet and dry deposition and is trapped in the organic soil layers as indicated by the high organic soil mercury concentrations and low mercury concentration in the underlying mineral layer. Extrapolation from the data measured for the two subplots to all boreal forests suggests a massive mercury stock in boreal forests (15,000 to 44,000 t). This is a low estimate because boreal lowlands have still higher mercury densities. Not all of the organic soil mercury was acquired since the last burns; some predates the more recent fires. The mercury being predominantly located in the organic soil makes fire severity the most important parameter for mercury release. The anticipated accelerated warming in northern latitudes would increase severity, frequency and burn area of future fires and result in large pulses of mercury to the atmosphere and further stress to the environment.