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    Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest global source of anthropogenic mercury emissions. However, little is known about how effectively mercury released from ASGM is converted into the bioavailable form of methylmercury in ASGM-altered landscapes. Through examination of ASGM-impacted river basins in Peru, we show that lake area in heavily mined watersheds has increased by 670% between 1985 and 2018 and that lakes in this area convert mercury into methylmercury at net rates five to seven times greater than rivers. These results suggest that synergistic increases in lake area and mercury loading associated with ASGM are substantially increasing exposure risk for people and wildlife. Similarly, marked increases in lake area in other ASGM hot spots suggest that “hydroscape” (hydrological landscape) alteration is an important and previously unrecognized component of mercury risk from ASGM. 
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  6. Abstract

    Conventional satellite platforms are limited in their ability to monitor rivers at fine spatial and temporal scales: suffering from unavoidable trade‐offs between spatial and temporal resolutions. CubeSat constellations, however, can provide global data at high spatial and temporal resolutions, albeit with reduced spectral information. This study provides a first assessment of using CubeSat data for river discharge estimation in both gauged and ungauged settings. Discharge was estimated for 11 Arctic rivers with sizes ranging from 16 to >1,000 m wide using the Bayesian at‐many‐stations hydraulic geometry‐Manning algorithm (BAM). BAM‐at‐many‐stations hydraulic geometry solves for hydraulic geometry parameters to estimate flow and requires only river widths as input. Widths were retrieved from Landsat 8 and Sentinel‐2 data sets and a CubeSat (the Planet company) data set, as well as their fusions. Results show satellite data fusion improves discharge estimation for both large (>100 m wide) and medium (40–100 m wide) rivers by increasing the number of days with a discharge estimation by a factor of 2–6 without reducing accuracy. Narrow rivers (<40 m wide) are too small for Landsat and Sentinel‐2 data sets, and their discharge is also not well estimated using CubeSat data alone, likely because the four‐band sensor cannot resolve water surfaces accurately enough. BAM technique outperforms space‐based rating curves when gauge data are available, and its accuracy is acceptable when no gauge data are present (instead relying on global reanalysis for discharge priors). Ultimately, we conclude that the data fusion presented here is a viable approach toward improving discharge estimates in the Arctic, even in ungauged basins.

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  7. Abstract

    Rivers are among the most imperiled ecosystems globally, yet we do not have broad‐scale understanding of their changing ecology because most are rarely sampled. Water color, as perceived by the human eye, is an integrative measure of water quality directly observed by satellites. We examined patterns in river color between 1984 and 2018 by building a remote sensing database of surface reflectance, RiverSR, extracted from 234,727 Landsat images covering 108,000 kilometers of rivers > 60 m wide in the contiguous USA. We found 1) broad regional patterns in river color, with 56% of observations dominantly yellow and 38% dominantly green; 2) river color has three distinct seasonal patterns that were synchronous with flow regimes; 3) one third of rivers had significant color shifts over the last 35 years. RiverSR provides the first map of river color and new insights into macrosystems ecology of rivers.

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