Needle age and precipitation as drivers of Hg accumulation and deposition in coniferous forests from a southwestern European Atlantic region
UNIVERSAL IDENTIFIER: http://hdl.handle.net/11093/4100
EDITED VERSION: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S001393512201550X
UNESCO SUBJECT: 2599 Otras Especialidades de la Tierra, Espacio o Entorno ; 2511 Ciencias del suelo (Edafología)
DOCUMENT TYPE: article
Vegetation and climate are critical in the biogeochemical cycle of Hg in forest ecosystems. The study assesses the influence of needle age and precipitation on the accumulation of Hg in needle biomass and its deposition by litterfall in thirty-one pine plantations spread throughout two biogeographical regions in SW Europe. Welldeveloped branches of Pinus pinaster were sampled and pine needles were classified according to 4 age classes (y0, y1, y2, y3). The concentration of total Hg (THg) was analyzed in the samples and Hg content in needle biomass and its deposition by litterfall were estimated. The concentration of total Hg (THg) increased with needle age ranging from 9.1 to 32.7 μg Hg kg−1 in the youngest and oldest needles, respectively. The rate of Hg uptake (HgR) three years after needle sprouting was 10.2 ± 2.3 μg Hg kg−1 yr−1, but it decreased with needle age probably due to a diminution in photosynthetic activity as needles get older. The average total Hg stored in needle biomass (HgWt) ranged from 5.6 to 87.8 mg Hg ha−1, with intermediate needle age classes (y1 and y2) accounting for 70% of the total Hg stored in the whole needle biomass. The average deposition flux of Hg through needle litterfall (HgLt) was 1.5 μg Hg m−2 yr−1, with the y2 and y3 needles contributing most to the total Hg flux. The spatial variation of THg, HgWt and HgLt decreased from coastal pine stands, characterized by an oceanic climate, to inland pine stands, a feature closely related to the dominant precipitation regime in the study area. Climatic conditions and needle age are the main factors affecting Hg accumulation in tree foliage, and should be considered for an accurate assessment of forest Hg pools at a regional scale and their potential consequences in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.
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