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Ultra-trace analysis of Hg in alkaline lavas and regolith from James Ross Island

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 December 2014

Pavel Coufalík*
Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 61137 Brno, Czech Republic Institute of Analytical Chemistry, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i., Veveří 97, 60200 Brno, Czech Republic
Ondřej Zvěřina
Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 61137 Brno, Czech Republic Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Kamenice 5, 62500 Brno, Czech Republic
Lukáš Krmíček
Faculty of Civil Engineering, Brno University of Technology, Veveří 95, 60200 Brno, Czech Republic Institute of Geology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, v.v.i., Rozvojová 269, 16500 Prague 6, Czech Republic
Richard Pokorný
Faculty of Environmental Studies, University J. E. Purkyně, Králova výšina 3132/7, 40096 Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic
Josef Komárek
Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 61137 Brno, Czech Republic


Polar regions represent a unique environment for the study of mercury cycling in the global ecosystem. Our research was focused on the assessment of the origin and mobility of mercury in the geochemical cycle in Maritime Antarctic (James Ross Island) by means of atomic absorption spectrometry. Mercury content in a set of extrusive (subaerial, subaqueous) and intrusive (dyke) alkaline basalts ranged between 1.6 µg kg-1 (for samples without xenoliths) and 8 µg kg-1 (for samples containing crustal xenoliths). The mercury content in alkaline basalts indicates a very low concentration of mercury in peridotitic mantle sources. Samples of regolith from James Ross Island were subjected to a comprehensive analytical procedure proposed for ultra-trace mercury concentrations involving fractionation and thermal analysis. Total mercury contents in regolith (2.7–11.3 µg kg-1) did not deviate from the natural background in this part of Antarctica. Additionally, the obtained results are about two orders of magnitude smaller than values formerly assumed for primary mercury contents in basaltic lavas. Our results from Antarctica were compared with mercury contents in basaltic rocks from Greenland and the findings were confirmed. It seems that the input of mercury of geological origin into the polar ecosystem is apparently lower than expected.

Earth Sciences
© Antarctic Science Ltd 2014 

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