Mercury content in the European Union topsoil

Topsoil Hg concentrations (μg kg−1) across 26 EU countries estimated by deep neural network – regression kriging. We also provide Mercury stocks and mercury fluxes to main riverbasins and sea outlets. The assessment is based on 21591 LUCAS samples (0-20cm) from 26 European Union countries.
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Metadata 1

Title: Mercury distribution in European Union topsoils.
Description: Mercury (Hg) distribution in topsoil (0-20cm) is influenced by climate, soil properties, vegetation.  In adiiton to the natural factor, mercury has high values close to past mining activities and coal combustion sites. High concentrations of mercury have been found close to well-known mining sites like Almaden (Asturias, Spain), Mt. Amiata (Italy), Idrija (Slovenia) and Rudnany (Slovakia). Overall, the stock of Hg in EU topsoil is estimated to c.a. 44.8 Gg with a median concentration of 38.3 μg kg−1; 10% of the area exceeds the 84.7 μg kg−1 and 209 Hg hotspots (top 1%) have been identified with concentrations >422 μg kg−1.In a more detailed investigation, 42% of the hotspots were associated with well-known mining activities while the rest can be related either to coal combustion industries or local diffuse contamination. In total 209 hotspots were identified, defined as the top percentile in Hg concentration (>422 μg kg−1). 87 sites (42% of all hotspots) were associated with known mining areas. The sources of the other hotspots could not be identified and may relate to unmined geogenic Hg or industrial pollution.
Resolution: 250m
Time Reference:  2009
Format: GeoTIFF
Projection: ETRS89 Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area
Input data: 21,591 measured points of LUCAS survey and other auxiliary variables: Geology, Land use & vegetation, Climate, Topography, Soil Properties.
More Information: Mercury in EU Topsoils
Release Date: 21/1/2021

According to our study, diffuse Hg contamination in European topsoil is not an emerging issue.  However, policy actions are needed for managing the existing hotspots and the emissions connected to power production. The 1% has been found to be at 422 μg kg−1. Therefore, areas close to past mining activities and coal combustion sites have high concentrations of Hg. The regression and the interpolation model highlight the influence of natural factors (soil organic matter, NDVI, texture, land use, parent material , pH, temperature, ). In addition, we take into account som eantorpogenic sources of contamination. Details can be found in the recent published paper.

Note: Extrapolated data for the whole European Continent are also avaialble. Those should be used with care. Our focus is in the EU data.

Metadata 2

Title: Mercury in European topsoils: Anthropogenic sources, stocks and fluxes.
Description: 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.

Format: GeoTIFF for Mercury stocks; shape files for Estimated Hg displaced with water erosion per catchment, Estimated Hg losses to river basins and Hg fluxes to sea outlets
Projection: ETRS89 Lambert Azimuthal Equal Area
Input dataMercury (Hg) distribution in topsoil (0-20cm); Sediment distribution (t ha-1 yr-1)
More InformationMercury in EU Topsoils
Release Date: 15/7/2021

This is the first study to couple soil diffuse contamination of an emerging pollutant (mercury) with sediment distribution models at continental scale. Agricultural lands contributes to more than 85% of those losses. As a follow-up, we used the European Catchment and River database to estimate the total Hg losses in river basins. In EU and UK, the total Hg losses in river basins is about 6 Mg yr-1 which is 14% of the total displaced Hg as the rest is re-distributed close to the eroded field. The catchments with high Hg concentration and high erosion rates are the ones with extreme Hg annual losses. Therefore, we estimated that 1.5% of the river basins have Hg losses higher 120 mg ha-1 yr-1; all of them are located in the Mediterranean Basin.The delineation of river basins allows to estimate the Hg losses which potentially can reach the major European Sea outlets. Summing up the possible Hg losses to sea outlets, we conclude that the Mediterranean Sea gets 2.94 Mg Hg yr-1 which is half of the total Hg losses routed to EU river basins. The Black Sea get c.a. 1.46 Mg Hg yr-1  while the Baltic Sea gets only 0.25 Mg Hg yr-1 and North Sea around 0.55 Mg Hg yr-1.  Those are the Hg losses attributed to water erosion in the EU and do not include gullies or landslides. Details can be found in the recent published paper.



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