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Intra- and inter-basin mercury comparisons: Importance of basin scale and time-weighted methylmercury estimates

September 18, 2012

To assess inter-comparability of fluvial mercury (Hg) observations at substantially different scales, Hg concentrations, yields, and bivariate-relations were evaluated at nested-basin locations in the Edisto River, South Carolina and Hudson River, New York. Differences between scales were observed for filtered methylmercury (FMeHg) in the Edisto (attributed to wetland coverage differences) but not in the Hudson. Total mercury (THg) concentrations and bivariate-relationships did not vary substantially with scale in either basin. Combining results of this and a previously published multi-basin study, fish Hg correlated strongly with sampled water FMeHg concentration (p = 0.78; p = 0.003) and annual FMeHg basin yield (p = 0.66; p = 0.026). Improved correlation (p = 0.88; p < 0.0001) was achieved with time-weighted mean annual FMeHg concentrations estimated from basin-specific LOADEST models and daily streamflow. Results suggest reasonable scalability and inter-comparability for different basin sizes if wetland area or related MeHg-source-area metrics are considered.

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