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Research article2006Peer reviewed

Organic material: The primary control on mercury methylation and ambient methyl mercury concentrations in estuarine sediments

Lambertsson L, Nilsson M


Estuarine environments that have no direct sources of mercury (Hg) pollution may have sediment concentrations of methylmercury (MeHg) as high as those of polluted marine environments. In this study we examined the biogeochemical factors affecting net methylation and sediment MeHg concentrations in an unpolluted estuarine environment, the Ore River estuary, which discharges into the Bothnian Bay (20-120 Ing total Hg g(-1) dry sediment, salinity 3-5 parts per thousand). We analyzed the spatial and temporal differences in surface sediment profiles of MeHg concentration, Hg methylation, MeHg demethylation, and concentrations of sulfide and oxygen between accumulation and erosion type bottoms. The main difference between the bottoms studied was in the proportion of organic material (OM) in the sediment, ranging between 0.8% and 10.8%. The pore water sulfide concentration profiles also differed considerably between sites and seasons, from 0 to 20,mu M, with 100 mu M as the extreme maximum. The sediment MeHg concentration profiles (0-10 cm) mostly varied between 0.1 and 7 ng g(-1) dry weight (dw, as Hg). The MeHg demethylation rates were relatively low and the depth profiles of the rates were relatively constant over season, site, and depth. In contrast, both rates and depths of maximum Hg methylation differed between the bottoms. The results indicate that the amount of OM accumulated at the bottoms was the main factor affecting net MeHg production, while the total amount of Hg had little or no influence on the amount of MeHg in the sediment

Published in

Environmental Science and Technology
2006, Volume: 40, number: 6, pages: 1822-1829

      SLU Authors

    • Nilsson, Mats

      • Department of Forest Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

    Publication identifier


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