Mercury (Hg) is deposited from the atmosphere to remote areas such as forests, but the amount of Hg in trees is not well known. To determine the importance of Hg in trees, we analyzed foliage, bark and bole wood of eight tree species at four sites in the northeastern USA (Huntington Forest, NY; Sleepers River, VT; Hubbard Brook, NH; Bear Brook, ME). Foliar concentrations of Hg averaged 16.3 ng g-1 among the hardwood species, which was significantly lower than values in conifers, which averaged 28.6 ng g-1 (p < 0.001). Similarly, bark concentrations of Hg were lower (p < 0.001) in hardwoods (7.7 ng g-1) than conifers (22.5 ng g-1). For wood, concentrations of Hg were higher in yellow birch (2.1–2.8 ng g-1) and white pine (2.3 ng g-1) than in the other species, which averaged 1.4 ng g-1 (p < 0.0001). Sites differed significantly in Hg concentrations of foliage and bark (p = 0.02), which are directly exposed to the atmosphere, but the concentration of Hg in wood depended more on species (p < 0.001) than site (p = 0.60). The Hg contents of tree tissues in hardwood stands, estimated from modeled biomass and measured concentrations at each site, were higher in bark (mean of 0.10 g ha-1) and wood (0.16 g ha-1) than in foliage (0.06 g ha-1). In conifer stands, because foliar concentrations were higher, the foliar pool tended to be more important. Quantifying Hg in tree tissues is essential to understanding the pools and fluxes of Hg in forest ecosystems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)