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Mercury and Methylmercury Concentrations in Litterfall Samples Collected at Selected National Atmospheric Deposition Program Sites during 2017 to 2019

September 23, 2021

The movement of mercury (Hg) from the atmosphere to the biosphere occurs by both wet and dry deposition to solid surfaces, water, and vegetation. Most of the annual dry atmospheric Hg deposition in deciduous forests is believed to originate from litterfall which consists mainly of dead leaves that fall to the earth’s surface, primarily during the autumn and winter seasons. Atmospheric Hg reaches an annual maximum concentration in leaves at the time of leaf fall. Analysis of litterfall samples helps to quantify total annual atmospheric Hg deposition to forests when combined with precipitation Hg data. This data set is derived from litterfall samples collected during 2017-18 and 2018-19 at 27 selected National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) sites in 12 states located across the eastern half of the United States. Through the Litterfall Mercury Monitoring Initiative (LMMI), operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), litterfall sample collectors were distributed to the selected NADP sites where site operators retrieved multiple 4-week-long samples during the leaf fall period. These samples were collected and shipped to the USGS Mercury Research Laboratory where they were analyzed for concentrations of total Hg and methylmercury (MeHg), and litterfall dry mass was also determined. The samples for total Hg and MeHg analysis represent composites from 4 collectors across all sample collections at each site during the litterfall season. Litterfall dry mass was determined from all 8 sample collectors across all sample collections.

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