04 Oct 2021

04 Oct 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal BG.

Physiological and climate controls on foliar mercury uptake by European tree species

Lena Wohlgemuth1, Pasi Rautio2, Bernd Ahrends3, Alexander Russ4, Lars Vesterdal5, Peter Waldner6, Volkmar Timmermann7, Nadine Eickenscheidt8, Alfred Fürst9, Martin Greve10, Peter Roskams11, Anne Thimonier6, Manuel Nicolas12, Anna Kowalska13, Morten Ingerslev5, Päivi Merilä14, Sue Benham15, Carmen Iacoban16, Günter Hoch1, Christine Alewell1, and Martin Jiskra1 Lena Wohlgemuth et al.
  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, Basel, CH-4056, Switzerland
  • 2Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Ounasjoentie 6, 96200 FI-Rovaniemi, Finland
  • 3Department of Environmental Control, Northwest German Forest Research Institute (NW-FVA), Grätzelstr. 2, D-37079 Göttingen, Germany
  • 4Landesbetrieb Forst Brandenburg, Alfred-Möller-Straße 1, D-16225 Eberswalde, Germany
  • 5Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 23, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
  • 6Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  • 7Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), NO-1431 Ås, Norway
  • 8State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection of North Rhine-Westphalia (LANUV), Leibnizstr. 10, D45659 Recklinghausen, Germany
  • 9Department of Forest Protection, Austrian Federal Research Centre for Forests, Vienna, A-1130, Austria
  • 10Landesforsten Rheinland-Pfalz, Hauptstr. 16, D-67705 Trippstadt, Germany
  • 11Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Gaverstraat 4, B-9500 Geraardsbergen, Belgium
  • 12Office National des Forêts (ONF), Département Recherche-Développement-Innovation, F-77300 Fontainebleau, France
  • 13Forest Research Institute, Sekocin Stary, Braci Lesnej 3, PL-05-090 Raszyn, Poland
  • 14Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), Paavo Havaksentie 3, FI-90570 Oulu, Finland
  • 15Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham Surrey, GU51 3QE, United Kingdom
  • 16Department of Ecology, "Marin Dracea" National Institute for Research and Development in Forestry, Campulung Moldovenesc Station, 73 bis Calea Bucovinei, RO-725100 Camulung Moldovenesc, Romania

Abstract. Despite the importance of vegetation uptake of atmospheric gaseous elemental mercury (Hg(0)) within the global Hg cycle, little knowledge exists on the physiological, climatic and geographic factors controlling stomatal uptake of atmospheric Hg(0) by tree foliage. We investigate controls on foliar stomatal Hg(0) uptake by combining Hg measurements of 3,569 foliage samples across Europe with data on tree species traits and environmental conditions. To account for foliar Hg accumulation over time, we normalized foliar Hg concentration over the foliar life period from the simulated start of the growing season to sample harvest.

The most relevant parameter impacting daily foliar stomatal Hg uptake was tree functional group (deciduous versus coniferous trees). On average, we measured 3.2 times higher daily foliar stomatal Hg uptake rates in deciduous leaves than in coniferous needles of the same age. Across tree species, for foliage of beech and fir, and at two out of three forest plots with more than 20 samples, we found a significant (p < 0.001) increase in foliar Hg values with respective leaf nitrogen concentrations. We therefore suggest, that foliar stomatal Hg uptake is controlled by tree functional traits with uptake rates increasing from low to high nutrient content representing low to high physiological activity. For pine and spruce needles, we detected a significant linear decrease of daily foliar stomatal Hg uptake with the proportion of time, during which vapor pressure deficit (VPD) exceeded the species-specific threshold values of 1.2 kPa and 3 kPa, respectively. The proportion of time within the growing season, during which surface soil water content (ERA5-Land) in the region of forest plots was low correlated negatively with corresponding foliar Hg uptake rates of beech and pine. These findings suggest that stomatal uptake of atmospheric Hg(0) is inhibited under high VPD conditions and/or low soil water content due the regulation of stomatal conductance to reduce water loss under dry conditions. We therefore propose, that foliar Hg measurements bear the potential to serve as proxy for stomatal conductance. Other parameters associated with forest sampling sites (latitude and altitude), sampled trees (average age and diameter at breast height) or regional satellite observation-based transpiration product (GLEAM) did not significantly correlate with daily foliar Hg uptake rates. We conclude that tree physiological activity and stomatal response to VPD and soil water content should be implemented in a stomatal Hg model, to assess future Hg cycling under different anthropogenic emission scenarios and global warming.

Lena Wohlgemuth et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2021-239', Charles T. Driscoll, 01 Nov 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2021-239', Frank Wania, 04 Nov 2021
  • RC3: 'Comment on bg-2021-239', Håkan Pleijel, 05 Nov 2021

Lena Wohlgemuth et al.

Lena Wohlgemuth et al.


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Short summary
Gaseous mercury is present in the atmosphere all over the globe. During the growing season, plants take up mercury from the air in a similar way as CO2. We investigated, which factors impact this vegetational mercury uptake by analyzing a large dataset of mercury uptake rates by forest trees in Europe. As a result, we conclude, that mercury uptake is foremost controlled by tree-intrinsic traits like physiological activity, but also by climatic factors like dry conditions in the air and in soils.