The Role of Biogeochemical Cycling of Atmosphere-surface Exchangeable Pollutants (ASEPs) in the Dynamic Coupled Human-Natural ASEP System
Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Thousands of toxic pollutants that we term “atmosphere-surface exchangeable pollutants”, or ASEPs, pass readily in both directions between the atmosphere and environmental surfaces and exhibit three characteristic tendencies when emitted to the environment: resistance to rapid degradation, accumulation in organic-rich biotic and abiotic surface reservoirs, and semivolatility causing re-emission to the atmosphere. ASEPs are emitted into the environment in part or in total through human activities, are transported and processed in the environment, and often deposited in locations distant from their original use or release. This characteristic separation of use and harm limits the capacity of communities affected by ASEPs to mitigate them. Incomplete understanding of the dynamic behavior of these pollutants in the environment has resulted in efforts to regulate them that do not fully protect human and ecosystem health from risks. To demonstrate this characteristic separation of use and harm, we compare and contrast the role that biogeochemical cycling plays in the dynamic coupled human-natural ASEP system for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyl compounds, and mercury. We highlight remobilization effects related to land use and climate change, and demonstrate the ecosystem service provided by natural organic matter through sequestration of ASEPs in terrestrial environments.