Spatial and temporal patterns of bioindicator mercury in pennsylvania oak forest

James R. McClenahen, Russell J. Hutnik, Donald D. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We monitored spatial and temporal patterns of total Hg in forest bioindicators to assess possible local, regional, and global changes in atmospheric Hg deposition. Total Hg concentrations were monitored in leaves and fresh litterfall of northern red oak (Quercus rubra L.), on an epiphytic moss (Dicranum montanum Hedw.) on northern red oak stems, and in surface soil organic matter (Oe and Oa horizons) in Pennsylvania oak-dominated forests. Variously configured plots were used to monitor Hg deposition near local coal-fired generating stations and an industrial city and along an extended regional transect. Linearly decreasing temporal trends in Hg concentrations occurred in leaves, litterfall, moss, and soil Oe and Oa. Mean annual Hg concentrations were oft en greater near local emissions sources compared with remote areas, especially in the initial monitoring period. Decreasing time trends for different impact areas tended to converge due to greater rates of Hg decrease where initial bioindicator Hg levels were higher. Fresh litter and soil Oe showed the greatest overall potential as Hg bioindicators. We conclude that Hg deposition has been significantly decreasing over time throughout the study area as a result of locally and regionally declining Hg emissions. Reductions in Hg emissions are likely a co-benefit of the 1990 Clean Air Act regulations and changing industrial activities. Recent leveling of several bioindicator Hg time trends may foretell a shift in Hg depositional patterns. Mercury monitoring studies such as this fulfill a need for documenting local and regional effects of emissions reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-311
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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