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Emission Inventory and Cyber(e)-Infrastructure Unit

Current UNEP estimates suggest that approximately 5,500-8,900 Mg of mercury are emitted annually to the atmosphere. About 2,000 Mg has an anthropogenic origin and is generated mainly by industry (particularly from fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and ferrous and non-ferrous metal production). A significant part also comes from mercury use in artisanal gold mining, the disposal of mercury containing products and from contaminated sites.

Roughly 80-600 Mg is of natural origin, such as volcanic emissions. Finally, a large part of these emissions (about 4,000-6,350 Mg) comes from the re-emission of previously deposited mercury. These re-emissions come mainly from soils, vegetation (especially during fires) and the oceans. The range of these estimates gives an indication of the uncertainty that scientists have to consider when attempting to define the sources of mercury emissions to the atmosphere. A deeper understanding of mercury emission sources would permit regional and global models to be improved and allow a better evaluation and simulation of the bio-geochemical cycle of mercury. Furthermore, this improved knowledge of emissions on a national scale would allow more specific abatement measures, with substantial benefits in economic terms.

The large amount of information regarding mercury emissions and concentrations in different ecosystem matrices needs to be handled appropriately. To this end, an infrastructure that allows experts to archive, catalogue and exchange data, and which also provides advanced web services and processes has been created: this is the so-called cyber (e)-infrastructure related to mercury and its compounds. Through this infrastructure, data, assessments and tools can be made available to researchers and policy makers for in-depth studies, and for the assessment and management of issues relating to mercury pollution.

The advanced web-services and processes provided by the cyber (e)-infrastructure include a Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI), which holds different databases, a system for the real-time management of monitoring stations, data quality control tools, and a user interface for the management of the infrastructure.

Among the databases that make up the Cyber(e)-Infrastructure there are: historical measurements of mercury concentrations in ambient air at terrestrial sites, (plus ancillary data); oceanographic campaign data, both in atmospheric and aquatic media; airborne mercury measurement campaign data in the lower stratosphere; real time mercury monitoring data from stations directly connected to the infrastructure.

The “Emission Inventory and Cyber(e)-Infrastructure" Unit aims to update annually the mercury emission inventory (national and global) for both anthropogenic sources and for natural sources and processes; to update mercury databases in the Cyber(e)-Infrastructure collecting information from institutional sites, sites related to mercury and from scientific publications; to develop and standardize methods for mercury emission measurements from major industrial plants; to support the development of advanced sensors connected to the Cyber(e)-Infrastructure as well as to update this through the development of tools for the management, control and sharing of information.

The Unit will support the integration of scientific and technical data within international programs such as UNEP, GEOSS, etc.. according to the Data Sharing principle.


Led by: Dr. Sergio Cinnirella
E-mail: s.cinnirella[at]

 CNR-Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research (CNR-IIA)
Division of Rende
c/o: UNICAL-Polifunzionale 
Rende, Italy