Although there have been recent significant gains in our understanding of mercury (Hg) cycling in aquatic environments, few studies have addressed Hg cycling on a watershed scale in particular, attention to Hg species transfer between watershed components (upland soils, groundwater, wetlands, streams, and lakes) has been lacking. This study describes spatial and temporal distributions of total Hg and MeHg among watershed components of the Allequash Creek watershed (northern Wisconsin, USA). Substantial increases in total Hg and MeHg were observed as groundwater discharged through peat to form springs that flow into the stream, or rivulets that drain across the surface of the wetland. This increase was concomitant with increases in DOC. During fall, when the Allequash Creek wetland released a substantial amount of DOC to the stream, a 23 fold increase in total Hg concentrations was observed along the entire length of the stream. Methylmercury, however, did not show a similar response. Substantial variability was observed in total Hg (0.9 to 6.3) and MeHg (<0.02 to 0.33) concentrations during synoptic surveys of the entire creek. For the Allequash Creek watershed, the contributing groundwater basin is about 50% larger than the topographic drainage basin. Total Hg concentrations in groundwater, the area of the groundwater basin, and annual stream flow data give a watershed-yield rate of 12 mg/km2/d, which equates to a retention rate of 96%. The calculated MeHg yield rate for the wetland area is 0.6 to 1.5 mg/km2/d, a value that is 3-6 fold greater than the atmospheric deposition rate.
Additional publication details
Mercury cycling in the Allequash Creek watershed, northern Wisconsin