Atmospheric total gaseous mercury (TGM) concentrations and wet and dry deposition of mercury at a high-altitude mountain peak in south China
1State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang 550002, China
2Guizhou Environmental Science Research Institute, Guiyang 550002, China
3Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Abstract. China is regarded as the largest contributor of mercury (Hg) to the global atmospheric Hg budget. However, concentration levels and depositions of atmospheric Hg in China are poorly known. Continuous measurements of atmospheric total gaseous mercury (TGM) were carried out from May 2008 to May 2009 at the summit of Mt. Leigong in south China. Wet and dry deposition fluxes of Hg were also calculated following collection of precipitation, throughfall and litterfall. Atmospheric TGM concentrations averaged 2.80±1.51 ng m−3, which was highly elevated compared to global background values but much lower than semi-rural and industrial/urban areas in China, indicating great emissions of Hg in central, south and southwest China. Seasonal and diurnal variations of TGM were observed, which reflected variations in source intensity, deposition processes and meteorological factors. Wet deposition of Hg was quite low, while its dry deposition of Hg (litterfall + throughfall-direct wet deposition) constituted a major portion of total deposition (~88% for total mercury (THg) and 84% for methyl mercury (MeHg)). This highlights the importance of vegetation to Hg atmospheric cycling. In a remote forest ecosystem of China, dry deposition of TGM, especially gaseous elemental mercury (GEM), was very important for the depletion of atmospheric Hg. Elevated TGM level in ambient air may accelerate the foliar uptake of Hg through air which may partly explain the elevated Hg dry deposition fluxes observed in Mt. Leigong.