Spatial distribution of mercury accumulation in the surface soil of Japanese forests

Takaya Chikamasa, Hideaki Shibata, Rieko Urakawa, Karibu Fukuzawa, Muneto Hirobe, Yoshiyuki Inagaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Mercury (Hg) is a pollutant that can affect human and ecosystem health. The transport and fate of Hg in the environment are dynamic and complex, but our understanding remains unclear for Japanese forest ecosystems. Here, we report the first country-wide survey of Hg concentrations in litter and surface mineral soil layers in 42 forest stands across Japan. The median concentrations of Hg in the litter layer and 0–10 cm of mineral soils were 99 (range: 56.7–297) and 145 (range: 22.8–294) μg kg−1, respectively, and tended to decrease down to 50 cm. There was a positive relationship between the Hg and total organic carbon concentrations in soil, suggesting that organic carbon strongly binds with Hg in soil. There was a significant positive correlation between the Hg and lead concentrations in the litter layer. Partial least square regression analysis indicated that the soil and litter properties as well as the atmospheric and geological Hg concentrations and some soil characteristics such as soil pH, organic matter properties and soil physical factors were effective explanatory variables of the country-wide spatial patterns of Hg concentrations in litter and mineral soil. In addition, we found the influence of atmospheric Hg is stronger in litter layer, whereas the influences of geological and soil factors are stronger in mineral soil. These results suggest that air pollution partly affects the spatial patterns of Hg concentrations in litter and soil of Japanese forests under the given geological and soil conditions at the country scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-167
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Forest Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Air pollution
  • japanese archipelago
  • litter layer
  • soil organic matter
  • volcanic soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry


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