Student Research Projects

Dry Deposition of Mercury on Plants: Do Tree Leaves Possess the Ability to Collect More Mercury with Increasing Amounts of Sea Salt?

Student Ashley Sibley, '17
Department Earth and Environmental Sciences
Course EES 270: Environmental Chemistry

Abstract

Sea salt spray can have a particularly high affinity for mercury, especially reactive gaseous mercury (Malcolm et al., 2010). Sea spray constantly coats coastal trees and foliage to which mercury can later adsorb. Thus, it is expected that the amount of mercury on the surface of a leaf increases as the salt concentration increases. In this experiment, evergreen leaves were coated with varying amounts of sea salt and were exposed to mercury (HgCl) using a manifold. Mercury on the leaves were measured by rinsing the evergreen leaves and analyzing the mercury amounts via cold vapor atomic fluorescence. Overall, the experimental indicates that the amount of mercury increases with higher concentrations of salt.