Design of Field and Monitoring Programs

Design of mercury R&D field programs and monitoring programs to establish baseline conditions and trends.

We design mercury field programs for research studies, baseline levels and trends,  and in support of simulation modeling. We also contributed to the design of a proposed national scale mercury monitoring program in the United States.

Elevated fish mercury concentrations can currently be found in remote lakes, rivers, reservoirs, estuaries and marine conditions, typically in predators such as sportfish at the top of food webs.  Most states in the USA have issued mercury advisories.  As of 2008, 80% of all advisories were based at least partly on mercury (See below – US EPA 2009). The number of advisories is increasing with time, although this is due at least partly to more sites being sampled (See below – Wiener et al. 2003).   In Ontario, 86 percent of fish consumption advisories for inland lakes (excluding the Great Lakes) are at least partly due to mercury, while organics such as dioxin, furan and PCBs are responsible for the majority of consumption restrictions on the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes (See below – Ontario MOE 2009).

How will mercury levels in the environment respond to regulations to reduce mercury emissions?   While it may seem simple to monitor the effects of mercury controls on mercury levels in the environment, this is not really the case.   For example:

  • Individual sites are impacted by different mixes of near-field, mid-range, and long-range mercury emissions sources.
  • Many factors affect mercury levels in the environment, including atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic chemistry, land use and urbanization, hydrology, climate change, and trophic conditions.
  • Some ecosystems may respond faster than others or have variable rates of response (e.g. relatively quickly at first but slower later).

The benefits of mercury emissions controls can be monitored, but only in a carefully designed long-term program.

(See below – Mason et al. 2005) published a journal publication outlining a framework for a national mercury monitoring program in the United States, and in 2007, (See below – Harris et al 2007b) published a book providing more comprehensive information on the recommended monitoring framework.   Legislation to establish a national mercury monitoring framework was submitted to US Congress and Senate in March 2007, and is currently being considered.


USEPA 2009

Ontario MOE 2009

Ontario Ministry of the Environment (2009) Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish 2009-2010. Twenty-fifth Edition, Revised, Queen’s Printer for Ontario

Mason et al., 2005

Mason, R.P., M.L. Abbott, R.A. Bodaly, O.R. Bullock Jr., C.T. Driscoll, D. Evers, S.E. Lindberg, M. Murray and E.B. Swain (2005) Monitoring the Response of Changing Mercury Deposition. Environmental Science and Technology 39 (1): 14A-22A

Harris et al., 2007b:

Harris R., D. Krabbenhoft, R. Mason, M. Murray, R. Reash and T. Saltman (2007) Chapter 1 (Introduction) in “Ecosystem Responses to Mercury Contamination: Indicators of Change”. R. Harris, D. Krabbenhoft, R. Mason, M. Murray, R. Reash and T. Saltman (Eds.). SETAC publications.

Wiener et al., 2003

Wiener J.G., D.P. Krabbenhoft, G.H. Heinz, A.M. Scheuhammer (2003) Ecotoxicology of mercury. In: Hoffman DJ, Rattner BA, Burton GA Jr, Cairns J Jr, editors. Handbook of ecotoxicology, 2nd edition. Boca Raton, FL, USA: CRC Press. p 409-463.

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