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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Methylmercury and Total Mercury in Arctic Permafrost (RIS-ID: 12073)

Awarded: NOK 26,000

As a student in the international master program in Environmental Toxicology and Environmental Chemistry at NTNU there is a formal study direction for Arctic research. Aim of this direction in the master program is to educate the future Arctic researchers, and the topics for master projects are directly connected to priority research areas and fieldwork in Arctic. Connected to this, my master topic involves studies of Methylmercury and total Mercury in Arctic Permafrost. Fieldwork is planned to be carried out during the summer period (July/August) in the period 2023 as part of my master thesis project at NTNU. Samples will be analyzed at Norwegian University of Science and Technology using dedicated instruments for both total mercury and methylmercury by cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrophotometer following US EPA 1630 and 1631 methods. Studies have indicated that permafrost in Arctic is a potential passive reservoir for mercury, accumulated from natural sources over long period of time as well as anthropogenic sources after the industrialization. In recent years the climate changes have resulted in warmer temperatures and longer summer periods in the Arctic area. This have resulted in longer thawing periods where the active layer that undergoes frequent freeze-thaw and wet-dry cycles increases in depths. The buried mercury bound to organic matter can then become available to microbial decay and be released. Further, it has recently been found that the thawing processes might results in a significant net production also of methylmercury due to thermokarst formation. Formation of potential high concentrations of bioavailable mercury in the toxic form of methylmercury in the upper active soli layer could have significant negative impact on the vulnerable biota in Svalbard.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum