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Project ID: 04-2-1-86

Year: 2004

Date Started: 08/02/2004

Date Completed: 10/01/2008

Title: Measurement of Mercury Mobilization and Accumulation Fish in Response to Prescribed Fire in a Boreal Forest Ecosystem

Project Proposal Abstract: Mercury (Hg) has been identified as one of today's most important environmental contaminants. Mercury contamination in fish is well known in the Great Lake States as well as in the northeast U.S, Canada, and northern Europe, even in remote wilderness areas. Although we are beginning to understand the Hg cycle in forested systems and the important Hg species that lead to bioaccumulation in the food chain, little is known of how wildland or prescribed fire affects Hg cycling processes and thus there is a significant data gap in land management decisions regarding use of prescribed fires in fuels management and in response to wildfires. In this study we will address that data gap by assessing Hg cycling processes in both pre- and post-burned watersheds in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area located in the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota. The prescribed burning program on the Superior National Forest was developed in response to a major blowdown event that occurred in 1999. The study area provides a rare opportunity to study fire/ecosystem Hg interactions in a wilderness that is dominated by lakes and wetlands. We will select undeveloped lakes in both burned (5 treatment lakes) and unburned (5 control lakes) watersheds and measure total-Hg, methyl-Hg (bioaccumulative form of Hg) and other important ions in precipitation, throughfall, soil, lake water and in 1+ year fish (perch) both pre-burn and post-burn, to assess sources of Hg and determine if changes in sources alters the concentration of Hg in fish. Our hypothesis is that prescribed fire will have a significant effect on Hg cycling within a watershed. In the short term (months to years) increased mobilization and transportation in burned watersheds may result in an increase in fish Hg concentrations. The research proposed here fits well with priorities listed in task statement #1 regarding studies to address locally important data gaps associated with planning and implementation of fuels treatment and post-fire implications. The results of this study will be critically important as federal agencies, especially the USDA Forest Service, ramp up efforts to control fuel loads across the nation. If prescribed fire enhances the watershed transport and bioaccumulation of Hg in fish, other fuel reduction techniques and/or post-fire management should be considered, especially in sensitive regions such as the boreal region where high levels of Hg in fish is already a concern.

Principal Investigator: Randall K. Kolka

Agency/Organization: Forest Service

Branch or Dept: NRS-Northern Research Station

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Trent Wickman

Forest Service

Superior National Forest

Co-Principal Investigator

Laurel Woodruff

USGS-Geological Survey

BRD-Water Science Center-MN

Federal Cooperator

Randall K. Kolka

Forest Service

NRS-Northern Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Lake States

There are no project locations identified for this project.

Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1378 Government Publication Immediate and Long-Term Fire Effects on Total Mercury in Forests Soils of Northeastern Minnesota
    261 MS Thesis Atmospheric Deposition of Total and Methyl Mercury in Boreal Forests and Response to Forest Fire (E. Witt)
    3130 Invited Paper/Presentation Influence of Prescribed Fire on the Re-Mobilization of Mercury in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
    3131 Poster Influence of Fire on Total and Methyl Mercury Deposition in Boreal Landscapes
    3132 Invited Paper/Presentation Influence of Prescribed Fire on Fish and Stream Water Mercury Concentrations
    3133 Poster Prescribed Fire Influences on Mercury Pathways in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
    3134 Poster Effects of Prescribed Fire on Mercury Concentrations in Water and Fish in the Larch Lake Watershed
  go to website 3135 Website  
    4464 Invited Paper/Presentation Mercury Cycling and Land Management Impacts
    4465 Invited Paper/Presentation USFS R&D Wilderness Review: Fire, Water and Air
    5870 Invited Paper/Presentation Influence of Prescribed Fire on the Re-Mobilization of Mercury in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness - Update
    5871 Poster Influence of Prescribed Forest Fire on the Re-Mobilization of Mercury in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness

Supporting Documents

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