Methylmercury (MeHg) degradation was investigated along an eutrophication gradient in the Florida Everglades by quantifying 14CH4 and 14CO2 production after incubation of anaerobic sediments with [14C]MeHg. Degradation rate constants (k) were consistently ≤0.1 d-1 and decreased with sediment depth. Higher k values were observed when shorter incubation times and lower MeHg amendment levels were used, and k increased 2-fold as in-situ MeHg concentrations were approached. The average floc layer k was 0.046 ± 0.023 d-1 (n = 17) for 1−2 day incubations. In-situ degradation rates were estimated to be 0.02−0.5 ng of MeHg (g of dry sediment)-1 d-1, increasing from eutrophied to pristine areas. Nitrate-respiring bacteria did not demethylate MeHg, and NO3- addition partially inhibited degradation in some cases. MeHg degradation rates were not affected by PO43- addition. 14CO2 production in all samples indicated that oxidative demethylation (OD) was an important degradation mechanism. OD occurred over 5 orders of magnitude of applied MeHg concentration, with lowest limits [1−18 ng of MeHg (g of dry sediment)-1] in the range of in-situ MeHg levels. Sulfate reducers and methanogens were the primary agents of anaerobic OD, although it is suggested that methanogens dominate degradation at in-situ MeHg concentrations. Specific pathways of OD by these two microbial groups are proposed.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Bacterial methylmercury degradation in Florida Everglades peat sediment|
|Series title||Environmental Science & Technology|
|Contributing office(s)||Toxic Substances Hydrology Program|