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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

The interplay between total mercury, methylmercury and dissolved organic matter in fluvial systems: A latitudinal study across Europe

Bravo, Andrea G.; Kothawala, Dolly N.; Attermeyer, Katrin; Tessier, Emmanuel; Bodmer, Pascal; Ledesma, Jose U.; Audet, Joachim; Pere Casas-Ruiz, Joan; Catalan, Nuria; Cauvy-Fraunie, Sophie; Colls, Miriam; Deininger, Anne; Evtimova, Vesela V.; Fonvielle, Jeremy A.; Fuss, Thomas; Gilbert, Peter; Ortega, Sonia Herrero; Liu, Liu; Mendoza-Lera, Clara; Monteiro, Juliana;
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Large-scale studies are needed to identify the drivers of total mercury (THg) and monomethyl-mercury (MeHg) concentrations in aquatic ecosystems. Studies attempting to link dissolved organic matter (DOM) to levels of THg or MeHg are few and geographically constrained. Additionally, stream and river systems have been understudied as compared to lakes. Hence, the aim of this study was to examine the influence of DOM concentration and composition, morphological descriptors, land uses and water chemistry on THg and MeHg concentrations and the percentage of THg as MeHg (%MeHg) in 29 streams across Europe spanning from 41 degrees N to 64 degrees N. THg concentrations (0.06-2.78 ng L-1) were highest in streams characterized by DOM with a high terrestrial soil signature and low nutrient content. MeHg concentrations (7.8-159 pg L-1) varied non-systematically across systems. Relationships between DOM bulk characteristics and THg and MeHg suggest that while soil derived DOM inputs control THg concentrations, autochthonous DOM (aquatically produced) and the availability of electron acceptors for Hg methylating microorganisms (e.g. sulfate) drive %MeHg and potentially MeHg concentration. Overall, these results highlight the large spatial variability in THg and MeHg concentrations at the European scale, and underscore the importance of DOM composition on mercury cycling in fluvial systems. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Mercury; Methylmercury; Streams; Rivers; Organic matter; Fluorescence

Published in

Water Research
2018, Volume: 144, pages: 172-182

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG3 Good health and well-being
      SDG6 Clean water and sanitation

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

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