The chemistry and bioavailability of Ag contribute to its high toxicity in marine and estuarine waters. Silver is unusual, in that both the dominant speciation reaction in seawater and the processes important in sorbing Ag in sediments favour enhanced bioavailability. Formation of a stable chloro complex favours dispersal of dissolved Ag, and the abundant chloro complex is available to biota. Sequestration by sediments also occurs, but with relatively slow kinetics. Amorphous aggregated coatings enhance Ag accumulation in sediments, as well as Ag uptake from sediments by deposit feeders. In estuaries, the bioaccumulation of Ag increases 56-fold with each unit of increased Ag concentration in sediments. Toxicity for sensitive marine species occurs at absolute concentrations as low as those observed for any nonalkylated metal, partly because bioaccumulation increases so steeply with contamination. The environmental window of tolerance to Ag in estuaries could be narrower than for many elements.
Additional publication details
Fate, bioavailability and toxicity of silver in estuarine environments