Large subglacial source of mercury from the southwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Hawkings, J. R. et al. (2021) Large subglacial source of mercury from the southwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Nature Geoscience, 14(7), pp. 496-502. (doi: 10.1038/s41561-021-00753-w)

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The Greenland Ice Sheet is currently not accounted for in Arctic mercury budgets, despite large and increasing annual runoff to the ocean and the socio-economic concerns of high mercury levels in Arctic organisms. Here we present concentrations of mercury in meltwaters from three glacial catchments on the southwestern margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet and evaluate the export of mercury to downstream fjords based on samples collected during summer ablation seasons. We show that concentrations of dissolved mercury are among the highest recorded in natural waters and mercury yields from these glacial catchments (521–3,300 mmol km−2 year−1) are two orders of magnitude higher than from Arctic rivers (4–20 mmol km−2 year−1). Fluxes of dissolved mercury from the southwestern region of Greenland are estimated to be globally significant (15.4–212 kmol year−1), accounting for about 10% of the estimated global riverine flux, and include export of bioaccumulating methylmercury (0.31–1.97 kmol year−1). High dissolved mercury concentrations (~20 pM inorganic mercury and ~2 pM methylmercury) were found to persist across salinity gradients of fjords. Mean particulate mercury concentrations were among the highest recorded in the literature (~51,000 pM), and dissolved mercury concentrations in runoff exceed reported surface snow and ice values. These results suggest a geological source of mercury at the ice sheet bed. The high concentrations of mercury and its large export to the downstream fjords have important implications for Arctic ecosystems, highlighting an urgent need to better understand mercury dynamics in ice sheet runoff under global warming.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research is part of a European Commission Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellowship ICICLES (grant agreement #793962) to JRH. Greenland terrestrial research campaigns were funded by a U.K. NERC Standard Grant (NE/I008845/1) and a Leverhulme Trust Research Grant (RPG-2016-439) to JLW, with additional support provided by a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award to JLW. Additional funding came from Czech Science Foundation grants (GACR; 15-17346Y and 18-12630S) to MS. Fjord fieldwork was supported by European Research Council grant ICY-LAB (grant agreement 678371) and Royal Society Enhancement Award (Grant RGF\EA\181036) to KRH. LM was funded by research programme VENI (0.16.Veni.192.150, NWO). TK was supported by Charles University Research Centre Program No. 204069. We also thank the analytical support from G. White in the geochemistry group at the National High Magnetic Field Geochemistry Laboratory, which is supported by NSF DMR-1644779 and the State of Florida.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cameron, Dr Karen
Authors: Hawkings, J. R., Linhoff, B. S., Wadham, J. L., Stibal, M., Lamborg, C. H., Carling, G. T., Lamarche-Gagnon, G., Kohler, T. J., Ward, R., Hendry, K. R., Falteisek, L., Kellerman, A. M., Cameron, K., Hatton, J. E., Tingey, S., Holt, A. D., Vinšová, P., Hofer, S., Bulínová, M., Větrovský, T., Meire, L., and Spencer, R. G.M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Nature Geoscience
Publisher:Nature Research
ISSN (Online):1752-0908
Published Online:24 May 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s) 2021
First Published:First published in Nature Geoscience 14(7): 496-502
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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