Natural sources of mercury
Once mercury is exposed to the biosphere it can enter the biogeochemical cycle or it can be transported long distances through the atmosphere. As mercury becomes incorporated into the biosphere, measurable releases can also be attributed to vegetation, forest fires, water bodies, sea salt spray, and soils. Although natural emissions occur mainly as elemental mercury vapour (Hg0), particulate and vaporous oxides, sulphides and halides as well as methylmercury vapour may also be released.
It is estimated that annual, natural emissions from continental sources are approximately 1 000 tonnes. In pre-industrial times, evasion from the oceans is thought to have been in the area of 600 tonnes. Today, however, evasion from the oceans has increased to approximately 2 000 tonnes due to the re-emission of mercury deposited as a result of human activities.
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