Mercury Cycling in Lake Gordon and Lake Pedder, Tasmania (Australia). II: Catchment Processes
- Cite this article as:
- Bowles, K.C., Apte, S.C., Maher, W.A. et al. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution (2003) 147: 25. doi:10.1023/A:1024561830113
The sources and concentrations of total mercury (total Hg) and methylmercury (MeHg) in the upper catchment of the Lake Gordon/Lake Pedder system in Tasmania, Australia were investigated. The catchment area, which contains over 50% wetlands, is located in a temperate region with no obvious point sources of mercury. Surface waters in the region had concentrations of total Hg ranging from 1.2 to 14.4 ng L-1 and MeHg from < 0.04 to 1.4 ng L-1. MeHg concentrations were seasonally dependent, with the highest concentrations occurring in summer. Sediments/soils in the catchment had concentrations of total Hg ranging from 4.0 to 194 ng g-1 and MeHg from <0.02 to 20.1 ng g-1. The low concentrations of total Hg confirmed that this region is pristine as regards mercury and has no geological enrichment of total Hg. The highest total Hg and MeHg concentrations in both sediment/soils and waters were found in bogs whereas the lowest concentrations typically occurred on the wetlandplains. MeHg concentrations, in bog and swamp sediments were correlatedwith the organic matter content (r = 0.942, P < 0.001). Acid volatile sulfide (AVS) measurements indicate that in most sediments AVS was greater than total Hg. Given the high reactivity of inorganic mercury and sulfide, this suggests that most of the particulate mercury in sediments is present as mercuric sulfide. The yield of MeHg from the catchment was estimated to be 3.2 mg ha-1 yr-1 and is higher than published rates measured in non-contaminated temperate catchments in the northern hemisphere. The higher yield was attributed to the generally warmer climatic conditions that favour net methylation and the relatively high rainfall (2–3 m yr-1) of the region, which supplies reactive inorganic mercury to the active zones ofmercury methylation and also flushes MeHg from the catchment.