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Stream mercury export in response to contemporary timber harvesting methods (Pacific Coastal Mountains, Oregon, USA)

January 25, 2018

Land-use activities can alter hydrological and biogeochemical processes that can affect the fate, transformation, and transport of mercury (Hg). Previous studies in boreal forests have shown that forestry operations can have profound, but variable effects on Hg export and methylmercury (MeHg) formation. The Pacific Northwest is an important timber producing region that receives large atmospheric Hg loads, but the impact of forest harvesting on Hg mobilization has not been directly studied and was the focus of our investigation. Stream discharge was measured continuously and Hg and MeHg concentrations measured monthly for 1.5 years following logging in three paired harvested and un-harvested catchments. There was no significant difference in particulate-bound Hg concentrations or loads in the harvested and unharvested catchments which may have resulted from the best management practices aimed at minimizing erosion. However, the harvested catchments had significantly higher discharge (32%), filtered Hg concentrations (28%), filtered Hg loads (80%), and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) loads (40%) compared to forested catchments. MeHg concentrations were low (mostly <0.05 ng L-1) in both harvested, un-harvested and downstream samples due to well-drained/unsaturated soil conditions and steep slopes with high energy eroding stream channels that were not conducive to the development of anoxic conditions. These results have important implications for the role forestry operations have in affecting catchment retention and export of Hg pollution.

Publication Year 2019
Title Stream mercury export in response to contemporary timber harvesting methods (Pacific Coastal Mountains, Oregon, USA)
DOI 10.1021/acs.est.7b05197
Authors Chris S. Eckley, Collin A. Eagles-Smith, Michael T. Tate, Brandon M Kowalski, Robert Danehy, Sherri L Johnson, David P. Krabbenhoft
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70204119
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Oregon Water Science Center; Wisconsin Water Science Center; National Research Program - Central Branch; WMA - Laboratory & Analytical Services Division; Upper Midwest Water Science Center