Particulate-phase mercury emissions from biomass burning and impact on resulting deposition: a modelling assessment
Abstract. Mercury (Hg) emissions from biomass burning (BB) are an important source of atmospheric Hg and a major factor driving the interannual variation of Hg concentrations in the troposphere. The greatest fraction of Hg from BB is released in the form of elemental Hg (Hg0(g)). However, little is known about the fraction of Hg bound to particulate matter (HgP) released from BB, and the factors controlling this fraction are also uncertain. In light of the aims of the Minamata Convention to reduce intentional Hg use and emissions from anthropogenic activities, the relative importance of Hg emissions from BB will have an increasing impact on Hg deposition fluxes. Hg speciation is one of the most important factors determining the redistribution of Hg in the atmosphere and the geographical distribution of Hg deposition. Using the latest version of the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFEDv4.1s) and the global Hg chemistry transport model, ECHMERIT, the impact of Hg speciation in BB emissions, and the factors which influence speciation, on Hg deposition have been investigated for the year 2013. The role of other uncertainties related to physical and chemical atmospheric processes involving Hg and the influence of model parametrisations were also investigated, since their interactions with Hg speciation are complex. The comparison with atmospheric HgP concentrations observed at two remote sites, Amsterdam Island (AMD) and Manaus (MAN), in the Amazon showed a significant improvement when considering a fraction of HgP from BB. The set of sensitivity runs also showed how the quantity and geographical distribution of HgP emitted from BB has a limited impact on a global scale, although the inclusion of increasing fractions HgP does limit Hg0(g) availability to the global atmospheric pool. This reduces the fraction of Hg from BB which deposits to the world's oceans from 71 to 62 %. The impact locally is, however, significant on northern boreal and tropical forests, where fires are frequent, uncontrolled and lead to notable Hg inputs to local ecosystems. In the light of ongoing climatic changes this effect could be potentially be exacerbated in the future.