Wetlands as principal zones of methylmercury production in southern Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico region

Environmental Pollution
By: , and 



It is widely recognized that wetlands, especially those rich in organic matter and receiving appreciable atmospheric mercury (Hg) inputs, are important sites of methylmercury (MeHg) production. Extensive wetlands in the southeastern United States have many ecosystem attributes ideal for promoting high MeHg production rates; however, relatively few mercury cycling studies have been conducted in these environments. We conducted a landscape scale study examining Hg cycling in coastal Louisiana (USA) including four field trips conducted between August 2003 and May 2005. Sites were chosen to represent different ecosystem types, including: a large shallow eutrophic estuarine lake (Lake Pontchartrain), three rivers draining into the lake, a cypress-tupelo dominated freshwater swamp, and six emergent marshes ranging from a freshwater marsh dominated by Panicum hemitomon to a Spartina alterniflora dominated salt marsh close to the Gulf of Mexico. We measured MeHg and total Hg (THg) concentrations, and ancillary chemical characteristics, in whole and filtered surface water, and filtered porewater.

Overall, MeHg concentrations were greatest in surface water of freshwater wetlands and lowest in the profundal (non-vegetated) regions of the lake and river mainstems. Concentrations of THg and MeHg in filtered surface water were positively correlated with the highly reactive, aromatic (hydrophobic organic acid) fraction of dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These results suggest that DOC plays an important role in promoting the mobility, transport and bioavailability of inorganic Hg in these environments. Further, elevated porewater concentrations in marine and brackish wetlands suggest coastal wetlands along the Gulf Coast are key sites for MeHg production and may be a principal source of MeHg to foodwebs in the Gulf of Mexico.

Examining the relationships among MeHg, THg, and DOC across these multiple landscape types is a first step in evaluating possible links between key zones for Hg(II)-methylation and the bioaccumulation of mercury in the biota inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico region

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Wetlands as principal zones of methylmercury production in southern Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico region
Series title Environmental Pollution
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2007.12.017
Volume 154
Issue 1
Year Published 2008
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 11 p.
First page 124
Last page 134
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