Factsheet #3: Mercury

Mercury (Hg) is emitted to the environment through natural and anthropogenic sources. Natural sources of Hg include mainly volcanoes, hydrothermal events, rock weathering, and soil and vegetation emissions (including natural forest fires). Anthropogenic sources of Hg include mainly coal combustion, smelting of metals, gold and silver mining, and chloralkali production using mercury or mercury compounds, and all human combustion processes. Since the industrial revolution anthropogenic mercury inputs exceed natural inputs by at least a factor of five

The UNEP Minamata Convention was ratified in August 2017 and aims to protect human health from mercury exposure by reducing anthropogenic, inorganic, mercury emissions. The most toxic and biomagnifying mercury species, methylmercury, is not emitted from anthropogenic or natural sources, but produced in the ocean from inorganic mercury.


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Data is available to download after registration here: https://geotraces.webodv.awi.de/login

Discoveries include:

Hydrothermal Mercury – the natural story of a contaminant

An international team of researchers has established the first global estimate of hydrothermal mercury emissions from mid ocean ridge.

Shedding light on Arctic Mercury

New research is now shining a light on mercury cycling on the Arctic shelf.

Linear correlation between Dissolved Gaseous Mercury and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon opens new modelling perspectives

Živković and his colleagues led a close study of the mercury speciation along the 40°S GEOTRACES section.

After the Mediterranean Sea one, don’t miss the Arctic present-day total mercury mass balance!

They provide an updated mass balance of the Arctic land and ocean mercury cycle.

Mercury stable isotopes constrain atmospheric pathways to the ocean

The study’s results hold promise that the implementation of anti-pollution measures under the Minamata Convention will likely result in a faster decrease of oceanic mercury levels than previously thought.

Loss of old Arctic sea ice increases methylmercury concentrations

Researchers from the SCRIPPS, the Stockholm Natural Museum and the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography show the importance of sea ice composition on methylmercury budgets

Want to learn more?

Watch the talk of Dr. Katlin Bowman “Mercury biogeochemistry in the Arctic Ocean” given as part of the webinar series “Breaking the Ice Ceiling” organized by a coalition of institutions including The Arctic Institute, Women in Polar Sciences, and Women of the Arctic: