, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 399–408 | Cite as

Methylmercury in Marine Ecosystems: Spatial Patterns and Processes of Production, Bioaccumulation, and Biomagnification

  • Celia ChenEmail author
  • Aria Amirbahman
  • Nicholas Fisher
  • Gareth Harding
  • Carl Lamborg
  • Diane Nacci
  • David Taylor


The spatial variation of MeHg production, bioaccumulation, and biomagnification in marine food webs is poorly characterized but critical to understanding the links between sources and higher trophic levels, such as fish that are ultimately vectors of human and wildlife exposure. This article discusses both large and local scale processes controlling Hg supply, methylation, bioaccumulation, and transfer in marine ecosystems. While global estimates of Hg supply suggest important open ocean reservoirs of MeHg, only coastal processes and food webs are known sources of MeHg production, bioaccumulation, and bioadvection. The patterns observed to date suggest that not all sources and biotic receptors are spatially linked, and that physical and ecological processes are important in transferring MeHg from source regions to bioaccumulation in marine food webs and from lower to higher trophic levels.


methylmercury bioaccumulation trophic transfer biomagnification bioadvection 



We gratefully acknowledge support from National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to hold a workshop entitled, “Fate and Bioavailability of Mercury in Aquatic Ecosystems and Effects on Human Exposure” from which this manuscript was initiated. Effort toward manuscript preparation was partially supported by NIH grant number P42 ESO7373 from the NIEHS; SERDP funds from the Department of Defense; the ESSRF (Environmental Science Strategic Research Fund) DFO, Canada; Woods Hole Sea Grant, Woods Hole Coastal Ocean Institute; National Science Foundation; and RI-INBRE grant number P20RR016457 from NCRR, NIH.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Celia Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aria Amirbahman
    • 2
  • Nicholas Fisher
    • 3
  • Gareth Harding
    • 4
  • Carl Lamborg
    • 5
  • Diane Nacci
    • 6
  • David Taylor
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, HB 6044Dartmouth CollegeHanover USA
  2. 2.Civil and Environmental Engineering DepartmentUniversity of MaineOrono USA
  3. 3.Marine Sciences Research CenterStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  4. 4.Department of Fisheries and OceansBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada
  5. 5.Woods Hole Oceanographic InstituteWoods HoleUSA
  6. 6.Office of Research and Development, Atlantic Ecology DivisionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyNarragansett USA
  7. 7.Department of Biology and Marine BiologyRoger Williams UniversityBristol USA

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