Mercury distribution in tropical soil profiles related to origin of mercury and soil processes

Abstract : The aim of the study is to improve our understanding of the vertical and lateral variations in the mercury content [Hg] of tropical soils. In addition to the distance to anthropogenic sources of Hg, the most frequently evoked determining factor is the abundance of Hg-bearing phases. Soil processes (weathering, mass or water transfer) determine the abundance of carrier phases. We assume that soil processes also have a direct impact on the distribution of Hg and that the impact is different according to the lithogenic or atmospheric origin of this element. We compare two types of soil (oxisol and ultisol) in the French Guiana forest, at localities a few tens of metres apart and exhibiting very different Hg contents. We show that vertical profiles of [Hg] are strongly related to the variations of [Hg-atmospheric], whereas [Hg-lithogenic] varies little. The penetration of Hg-atmospheric from the surface deposits is favoured down to a depth of 3 in in the oxisol and limited to the upper horizons of the ultisol because of contrasted hydraulic conductivity between the two soils. Hg is primarily of lithogenic origin in the alteritic horizons of the ultisol. The relative accumulation of Hg-lithogenic during the progressive weathering of parental material is limited near the soil surface by the disequilibrium of secondary minerals. Remobilization of Hg-atmospheric or Hg-lithogenic stored in the soil is a function of the chemical or particulate erosion of Hg-bearing phases, particularly active in the upper horizons of the ultisol, where lateral flow occurs during rain events. The correlations observed between the iron or clay contents and [Hg] can be caused by the affinity of Hg for these carrier phases, but may also reflect the weathering and the transfer processes which affect together the fate of Hg and the mineralogical and chemical composition of the soil.
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Catherine Grimaldi, Michel Grimaldi, Stéphane Guedron. Mercury distribution in tropical soil profiles related to origin of mercury and soil processes. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2008, 401 (1-3), pp.121-129. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.04.001⟩. ⟨bioemco-00399988⟩



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