Is there a chronological record of atmospheric mercury and lead deposition preserved in the mor layer (O-horizon) of boreal forest soils
2008 (English)In: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol. 72, 703-712 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
The organic horizon (the mor layer) of podzolized boreal forest soils has accumulated atmospheric fallout of mercury and lead over centuries, resulting in current concentrations close to levels where negative effects on soil biota are thought to occur. To what extent the pollution history is preserved in the stratigraphy of this horizon is not well known. In this study we asses whether the chronology of a large historic pulse of atmospheric pollution emitted from the Ronnskar smelter in northern Sweden, particularly between 1950 and 1980, is preserved within the stratigraphy of the mor layer, which is typically 5-cm thick. Vertical sub-sampling (<= 5 mm) of five mor profiles sampled along a 100-km pollution gradient away from the smelter are analyzed for mercury and lead concentrations, spheroidal carbonaceous particles from fossil fuel combustion (SCPs) and stable lead isotopes (Pb-206/Pb-207 and Pb-208/Pb-207). Their vertical distribution is compared with the temporal variations in atmospheric inputs reconstructed for the last similar to 100 years from analyses of an ombrotrophic peat core and a varved take sediment core sampled within a distance of 50 km of the smelter. The mor profiles situated <= 12 km from the smelter record the pollution history of the smelter. There is a 20 to 40-times enrichment of Hg, Pb and SCP at the transition in the O-horizon from the F- to H-layer compared to the basal part and a distinct peak in the Pb-206/Pb-207 ratio (similar to 1.22) in the F-layer. The mor profiles situated outside the historical contamination range of the smelter (80 and 100 km away) record no obvious influence from the Ronnskar smelter, instead their vertical Pb-206/Pb-207 profiles follow the general regional pollution history in northern Sweden. We conclude that the mor layer preserves a record of atmospheric Hg, Pb and SCP inputs and due to low leaching rates this organic horizon serves as a semi-archive of atmospheric Hg and Pb pollution. We stress the need of including this property in the existing 'black-box' models predicting the fate of Hg and Pb within contaminated boreal forest soils.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 72, 703-712 p.
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-11480DOI: doi:10.1016/j.gca.2007.10.030OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-11480DiVA: diva2:151151