Dr. Tsz-Ki Tsui (Biology) received new funding from Clemson University for the project “Storage, Reactivity, and Bioavailability of Mercury in Managed Forests – Balancing Mercury Toxicity and Wildfire Risks through Effective Fuel Reduction Techniques.”
This project is supported by funds from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The abstract notes that prescribed burning and mechanical thinning are essential forest management practices in the Southeastern U.S., having many beneficial objectives including reduction in the susceptibility of forests to both southern pine beetle attack and wildfires. The four-year project will involve controlled field studies, laboratory studies, and watershed monitoring study to evaluate prescribed burning and mechanical thinning practices, roles of OM/DOM, formation of black carbon, and landscape processes on the transport of different forms of Hg via catchments and downstream Hg transformation mainly microbial methylation. Forest floor sample materials will be collected from experimental plots with different burning schedules and frequency and will be incubated under field conditions. Forest floor materials under different practices will be further tested for their propensities in leaching Hg and further methylation. An unmanaged and a managed 1st order watershed at three locations in North Carolina and South Carolina will be used to evaluate the landscape processes on the exports of Hg. With the results of the control study and field investigation, a box model describing production of methylmercury, toxic form of mercury, in forested ecosystems under different forest management practices will be developed.