Initial estimates of mercury emissions to the atmosphere from global biomass burning

H. R. Friedli, A. F. Arellano, S. Cinnirella, N. Pirrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


The average global annual mercury emission estimate from biomass burning (BMB) for 1997-2006 is 675 ± 240 Mg/year. This is equivalent to 8% of all currently known anthropogenic and natural mercury emissions. By season, the largest global emissions occur in August and September, the lowest during northern winters. The interannual variability is large and region-specific, and responds to drought conditions. During this particular time period, the largest mercury emissions are from tropical and boreal Asia, followed by Africa and South America. They do not coincide with the largest carbon biomass burning emissions, which originate from Africa. Frequently burning grasslands in Africa and Australia, and agricultural waste burning globally, contribute relatively little to the mercury budget. The released mercury from BMB is eventually deposited locally and globally and contributes to the formation of toxic bioaccumulating methyl mercury. Furthermore, increasing temperature in boreal regions, where the largest soil mercury pools reside, is expected to exacerbate mercury emission because of more frequent, larger, and more intense fires.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3507-3513
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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