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Time Course Transformations and Fate of Mercury in Aquatic Model Ecosystems

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Model aquatic ecosystems have been used to study the natural mechanisms involved in the distribution and transformation of inorganic mercury (IHg) in the different compartments and its interactions with the biota. Laboratory incubations in indoor freshwater microcosms, presenting a simple biological organization, were carried out at various spiked concentrations (3, 25 and 257 nmol l−1 of IHg, as mercuric chloride) and from a single initial contamination of the water column. The different compartments of the model ecosystems (water, sediment, macrophytes Elodea canadensis and snails Lymnaea stagnalis) were investigated for mercury distribution and speciation during a 2-month experimental period. The principal results obtained have evidenced different Hg biogeochemical pathways including biotic IHg methylation and reduction and transfer to the biota. A fast transfer of IHg from the water to the aquatic organisms and to the sediment was first observed with IHg half-lives of 24 h and 8 days, respectively. IHg methylation, clearly related to biogenic processes, was also demonstrated in all contaminated microcosms after 1 week of exposure. Finally, gaseous mercury species were determined in the different microcosms and significant biological induced production of elemental Hg (Hg°) and dimethyl Hg (DMHg) was observed. This overall investigation, based on the time courses evolution of IHg and in situ produced monomethylmercury (MMHg) concentrations allows to determine uptake and elimination rate constants for IHg as well as the bioaccumulation kinetics of MMHg in macrophytes and snails. The applicability of these aquatic model ecosystems to provide real insights for pollution impact and ecotoxicological risk assessments has been demonstrated.

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R.C. Rodriguez Martin-Doimeadios thanks the European Union for her post-doctoral Marie-Curie grant (HPMF-CT-1999-00244). E. Tessier acknowledges the Institut National de l’Environnement Industriel et des Risques (INERIS, Dpt. Risques Chroniques) for his Ph.D. grant.

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Correspondence to Emmanuel Tessier.

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Rosa C. Rodriguez Martin-Doimeadios is on leave from the Department of Analytical Chemistry and Food Technology, University of Castilla-La Mancha, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Toledo, Spain.

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Tessier, E., Rodriguez Martin-Doimeadios, R.C., Amouroux, D. et al. Time Course Transformations and Fate of Mercury in Aquatic Model Ecosystems. Water Air Soil Pollut 183, 265–281 (2007).

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  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • Microcosms
  • Methylation
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Volatilization