Ultraviolet absorbance as a proxy for total dissolved mercury in streams

Jason A. Dittman, James B. Shanley, Charles T. Driscoll, George R. Aiken, Ann T. Chalmers, Janet E. Towse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Stream water samples were collected over a range of hydrologic and seasonal conditions at three forested watersheds in the northeastern USA. Samples were analyzed for dissolved total mercury (THgd), DOC concentration and DOC composition, and UV254 absorbance across the three sites over different seasons and flow conditions. Pooling data from all sites, we found a strong positive correlation of THgd to DOC (r2 = 0.87), but progressively stronger correlations of THgd with the hydrophobic acid fraction (HPOA) of DOC (r2 = 0.91) and with UV254 absorbance (r2 = 0.92). The strength of the UV254 absorbance-THgd relationship suggests that optical properties associated with dissolved organic matter may be excellent proxies for THgd concentration in these streams. Ease of sample collection and analysis, the potential application of in-situ optical sensors, and the possibility for intensive monitoring over the hydrograph make this an effective, inexpensive approach to estimate THgd flux in drainage waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1953-1956
Number of pages4
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • DOC
  • Dissolved organic carbon
  • Mercury
  • Ultraviolet absorbance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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