Linking Data on Episodic Stream Acidification to Soil Chemistry in Assessments of Recovery from Acidic Deposition

Greg B. Lawrence
U.S. Geological Survey,
Troy, NY USA

Mercury contamination of fish is a global problem. Consumption of contaminated fish is the primary route of methylmercury exposure in humans and is detrimental to health. Newly mandated reductions in anthropogenic mercury emissions aim to reduce atmospheric mercury deposition and thus mercury concentrations in fish. However, factors other than mercury deposition are important for mercury bioaccumulation in fish. In the lakes of Isle Royale, USA, reduced rates of sulfate deposition since the Clean Air Act of 1970 have caused mercury concentrations in fish to decline to levels that are safe for human consumption, even without a discernable decrease in mercury deposition. Therefore, reductions in anthropogenic sulfur emissions may provide a synergistic solution to the mercury problem in sulfate-limited freshwaters.