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Mercury cycling in stream ecosystems. 2. Benthic methylmercury production and bed sediment - Pore water partitioning

Environmental Science & Technology

By:
ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , and
https://doi.org/10.1021/es802698v

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Abstract

Mercury speciation, controls on methylmercury (MeHg) production, and bed sediment−pore water partitioning of total Hg (THg) and MeHg were examined in bed sediment from eight geochemically diverse streams where atmospheric deposition was the predominant Hg input. Across all streams, sediment THg concentrations were best described as a combined function of sediment percent fines (%fines; particles < 63 μm) and organic content. MeHg concentrations were best described as a combined function of organic content and the activity of the Hg(II)-methylating microbial community and were comparable to MeHg concentrations in streams with Hg inputs from industrial and mining sources. Whole sediment tin-reducible inorganic reactive Hg (Hg(II)R) was used as a proxy measure for the Hg(II) pool available for microbial methylation. In conjunction with radiotracer-derived rate constants of 203Hg(II) methylation, Hg(II)R was used to calculate MeHg production potential rates and to explain the spatial variability in MeHg concentration. The %Hg(II)R (of THg) was low (2.1 ± 5.7%) and was inversely related to both microbial sulfate reduction rates and sediment total reduced sulfur concentration. While sediment THg concentrations were higher in urban streams, %MeHg and %Hg(II)R were higher in nonurban streams. Sediment pore water distribution coefficients (log Kd’s) for both THg and MeHg were inversely related to the log-transformed ratio of pore water dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to bed sediment %fines. The stream with the highest drainage basin wetland density also had the highest pore water DOC concentration and the lowest log Kd’s for both THg and MeHg. No significant relationship existed between overlying water MeHg concentrations and those in bed sediment or pore water, suggesting upstream sources of MeHg production may be more important than local streambed production as a driver of water column MeHg concentration in drainage basins that receive Hg inputs primarily from atmospheric sources.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Mercury cycling in stream ecosystems. 2. Benthic methylmercury production and bed sediment - Pore water partitioning
Series title:
Environmental Science & Technology
DOI:
10.1021/es802698v
Volume:
43
Issue:
8
Year Published:
2009
Language:
English
Publisher:
ACS Publications
Description:
7 p.
First page:
2726
Last page:
2732