A mercury emission model was developed to estimate non-point source mercury (Hg) emissions occurring over the year from the Idrijca River catchment, draining the area of the world's second largest Hg mine in Idrija, Slovenia. Site-specific empirical correlations between the measured Hg emission fluxes and the parameters controlling the emission (comprising substrate Hg content, soil temperature, solar radiation and soil moisture) were incorporated into the mercury emission model developed using Geographic Information System technology. In this way, the spatial distribution and significance of the most polluted sites that need to be properly managed was assessed. The modelling results revealed that annually approximately 51 kg of mercury are emitted from contaminated surfaces in the catchment (640 km(2)), highlighting that emission from contaminated surfaces contributes significantly to the elevated Hg concentrations in the ambient air of the region. Very variable meteorological conditions in the modelling domain throughout the year resulted in the high seasonal and spatial variations of mercury emission fluxes observed. Moreover, it was found that mercury emission fluxes from surfaces in the Idrija region are 3-4 fold higher than the values commonly used in models representing emissions from global mercuriferous belts. Sensitivity and model uncertainty analysis indicated the importance of knowing not only the amount but also the type of mercury species and their binding in soils in future model development.
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