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Panos Panagosa, Martin Jiskrab, Pasquale Borrellic, Leonidas Liakosa, Cristiano Ballabioa. 2021. “Mercury in European Topsoils: Anthropogenic Sources, Stocks and Fluxes.” Environmental Research, June, 111556.

a. European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy

b. Environmental Geosciences, University of Basel, Switzerland

c. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Pavia, 27100, Pavia, Italy

Mercury (Hg) is one of the most dangerous pollutants worldwide. In the European Union (EU), we recently estimated the Hg distribution in topsoil using 21,591 samples and a series of geo-physical inputs. In this manuscript, we investigate the impact of mining activities, chrol-alkali industries and other diffuse pollution sources as primary anthropogenic sources of Hg hotspots in the EU. Based on Hg measured soil samples, we modelled the Hg pool in EU topsoils, which totals about 44.8 Gg, with an average density of 103 g ha−1. As a following step, we coupled the estimated Hg stocks in topsoil with the pan-European assessment of soil loss due to water erosion and sediment distribution. In the European Union and UK, we estimated that about 43 Mg Hg yr−1 are displaced by water erosion and c. a. 6 Mg Hg yr−1 are transferred with sediments to river basins and eventually released to coastal Oceans. The Mediterranean Sea receives almost half (2.94 Mg yr−1) of the Hg fluxes to coastal oceans and it records the highest quantity of Hg sediments. This is the result of elevated soil Hg concentration and high erosion rates in the catchments draining into the Mediterranean Sea. This work contributes to new knowledge in support of the policy development in the EU on the Zero Pollution Action Plan and the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 3.9 and 14.1, which both have as an objective to reduce soil pollution by 2030.

Link to Dataset: Mercury content in the European Union topsoil

Map of Hg stock (g ha−1) in European topsoils.

Estimated Hg losses to river basins and Hg fluxes to sea outlets (Mg yr−1) due to water erosion.

Estimated Hg displaced with water erosion per catchment. The vertical bars show the annual Hg eroded (green) and deposited (orange) per country.


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