Mercury (Hg) is a chemical pollutant of human health concern worldwide; a consequence of anthropogenic activities; and the focus of the Minamata Convention on Mercury (MC; https://minamataconvention.org/en), an international treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The MC entered into force on 16 August 2017 and committed to limiting the use and environmental release of mercury. Also, the 1998 Protocol on Heavy Metals of the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) commits parties to mitigating emissions of mercury (as well as cadmium and lead) from a variety of point sources and provides guidance on mitigating emissions associated with heavy metal use in manufactured products. The MC framework requires an evaluation of the effectiveness of its measures in meeting the objectives beginning no later than 6 years after the convention’s entry into force and periodically thereafter. The Protocol on Heavy Metals requires a periodic review of the progress towards meeting the obligations in the protocol and the sufficiency and effectiveness of those obligations and an evaluation of whether additional emission reductions are warranted.
This multi-journal special issue (SI) is intended to develop the required information that can be scientifically exploited to address key policy questions of the conventions: (1) what are the contributions of anthropogenic emissions and releases and other Hg sources to current Hg levels observed in air, biota, humans, and other media? (2) How have these contribution levels changed over time and over the timeline of the convention? (3) How do the contribution levels and their trends vary geographically at the global scale? (4) What are the contributions of anthropogenic emissions and releases and other drivers to the temporal trends in observed Hg levels across global regions? (5) How are observed Hg levels expected to change in the future?
The special issue aims at collecting relevant research advances arising from the design, implementation, and results of the Multi-Compartment Hg Modeling and Analysis Project (MCHgMAP) and from the scientific community on all aspects of biogeochemical mercury cycling, including primary and secondary emissions, observations, process studies, and single to multi-compartmental and statistical model development and application. A challenge of analysing the fate of emitted mercury is that it can recycle between the atmosphere, land, and ocean, and as a result, past and present emissions can continue to affect the environment on timescales of decades to centuries. MCHgMAP is an ensemble modelling initiative developed to inform the effectiveness of evaluations of the MC and LRTAP, utilizing a coordinated modelling approach between single-medium (atmosphere, land, and ocean) and multi-media mercury models to consistently simulate the changing global and regional environmental Hg cycling and analyse its drivers. The SI includes an overview paper on MCHgMAP, describing its scientific background and design (an important and crucial preparatory stage), which will be referenced by the individual papers on this project that follow.
Review process: This inter-journal special issue co-lists papers of different journals. Thereby, each paper was submitted to 1 particular journal and underwent the regular interactive peer-review process of that journal. Depending on the journal, the peer review was handled by regular members of the editorial board and/or by guest editors designated by the journal’s chief/executive editors.