Historical trends of mercury deposition in Adirondack lakes

Peter Lorey, Charles T. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


There is interest in historical patterns of total mercury (Hg(T)) deposition because of concern over contamination to remote lakes by atmospheric Hg deposition. Sediment cores were collected from eight remote lakes in the Adirondack region of New York. Concentration and flux profiles were reconstructed from preindustrial to modern values based on 210Pb dating. All cores exhibited an increase in Hg(T) since 1850. The ratio of modern Hg(T) flux to preindustrial Hg(T) flux in sediments ranged from 1.8 to 5.7, with an average value of 3.5. The lake cores showed an increase in sediment Hg(T) flux with increasing ratio of watershed area to lake surface area. Our analysis suggests that in 1850 Adirondack watersheds retained 95% of atmospheric deposition of Hg. This fraction has decreased since about 1930 to 78% currently, a value that agrees with watershed mass balance studies. Extrapolation of the relationship between sediment Hg(T) flux and watershed area to lake surface area to a value of 1 suggests that the flux of atmospheric Hg(T) deposition was 5.0 μg m-2 yr-1 in preindustrial times and is 8.9 μg m-2 yr-1 currently. This modern estimate of Hg deposition to lake sediments is somewhat lower (~36%) than direct estimates of atmospheric Hg(T) deposition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-722
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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