Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

, Volume 220, Issue 1–4, pp 313–326 | Cite as

Mercury Speciation and Distribution in Coastal Wetlands and Tidal Mudflats: Relationships with Sulphur Speciation and Organic Carbon

  • Nelson J. O’Driscoll
  • João Canário
  • Nathan Crowell
  • Tim Webster
Article

Abstract

Sediment cores were analysed from four coastal wetland sites within the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy to compare mercury speciation and sediment characteristics. The coastal wetland sediments were low in total mercury (mean = 17.4 ± 9.9 ng g−1); however, MeHg concentration was 92 times higher (mean of 249 pg g−1) than intertidal mudflat sediment (mean of 2.7 pg g−1). Total mercury concentrations in intertidal mudflat cores were also low (0.5–23.7 ng g−1) and correlated (Pearson correlation = 0.98; p < 0.01) with % organic carbon; with low concentrations of MeHg present only below depths of 6 cm (mean = 2.7 ± 1.0 pg g−1). Total mercury concentrations were negatively correlated (correlation = 0.56, p < 0.05) with inorganic sulphur (acid volatile sulphides (AVS) and pyrite) while MeHg concentrations were inversely correlated (Pearson correlation = −0.68; p < 0.05) with the pyrite content but not with AVS. Methyl mercury concentrations were not significantly correlated with organic carbon content in the wetland sediments, and mercury-in-biomass enrichment factors were lower (total mercury mean 1.5 ± 1.9 and MeHg mean = 3.6 ± 4.8) than published measurements from mercury polluted sites. Modelling estimates found on average 4.4 times more total mercury mass in the intertidal mudflat sediments relative to vegetated wetlands. A negative relationship was observed between MeHg concentrations (below 20 cm depth) and modelled tidal inundation. The mineral fraction within wetland sediments contained 96.2% of the total mercury mass; however, the highest concentrations of mercury species were in root biomass. This research confirms that vegetated coastal wetlands are key areas for formation of bioavailable methyl mercury, and mercury distribution is tied to organic carbon and sulphur speciation.

Keywords

Mercury Methyl mercury Sulphur Coastal wetlands Salt marsh Sediments Mudflats Bay of Fundy 

References

  1. Becker, D. S., & Bigham, G. N. (1995). Distribution of mercury in the aquatic food web of Onondaga Lake, New York. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 80(1–4), 563–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. BOFEP (Bay of Fundy Ecosystem Partnership). (2008). The “Cause” in causeway: Crossing the Avon River at Windsor. Issue #28.Google Scholar
  3. Burgess, N. M., & Meyer, M. W. (2008). Methylmercury exposure associated with reduced productivity in common loons. Ecotoxicology, 17, 83–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Canário, J., & Vale, C. (2004). Rapid release of mercury from intertidal sediments exposed to solar radiation: A field experiment. Environmental Science & Technology, 38(14), 3901–3907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Canário, J., Vale, C., Caetano, M., & Madureira, M. J. (2003). Mercury in contaminated sediments and pore waters enriched in sulphate (Tagus Estuary, Portugal). Environmental Pollution, 126(3), 425–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Canário, J., Antunes, P., Lavrado, J., & Vale, C. (2004). Simple method for monomethylmercury determination in estuarine sediments. Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 23, 798–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canário, J., Vale, C., & Caetano, M. (2005a). Distribution of monomethylmercury and mercury in surface sediments of the Tagus Estuary (Portugal). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 50, 1121–1145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Canário, J., Vale, C., & Caetano, M. (2005b). Distribution of monomethylmercury and mercury in surface sediments of the Tagus Estuary (Portugal). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 50, 1142–1145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Canário, J., Caetano, M., & Vale, C. (2006). Validation and application of an analytical method for monomethylmercury quantification in aquatic plant tissues. Analytica Chimica Acta, 580, 258–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canário, J., Caetano, M., Vale, C., & Cesario, R. (2007). Evidence for elevated production of methylmercury in salt marshes. Environmental Science & Technology, 41, 7376–7382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Canário, J., Prego, R., Vale, C., & Branco, V. (2007). Distribution of mercury and monomethylmercury in sediments of Vigo Ria, NW Iberian Peninsula. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 182, 21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Canfield, D. E., Raiswell, R., Westrich, J. T., Reaves, C. M., & Berner, R. A. (1986). The use of chromium reduction in analysis of reduced inorganic sulphur in sediments and shale. Chemical Geology, 54, 149–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Compeau, G. C., & Bartha, R. (1985). Sulfate-reducing bacteria: Principal methylators of mercury in anoxic estuarine sediment. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 50(2), 498–502.Google Scholar
  14. Drevnick, P. E., & Sandheinrich, M. B. (2003). Effects of dietary methylmercury on reproductive endocrinology of fathead minnows. Environmental Science & Technology, 37(19), 4390–4396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Drobner, E., Huber, H., Wachterhauser, G., Rose, D., & Steller, K. (1990). Pyrite formation linked with hydrogen sulphide evolution under anaerobic conditions. Nature, 546, 742–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flater, D., & Pentcheff, D. (2008, January). Cape Blomidon, Nova Scotia. Retrieved January 24, 2009, from WWW Tide/Current Predictor: http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/tideshow.cgi?site=Cape+Blomidon%2C+Nova+Scotia
  17. Fleming, E. J., Mack, E. E., Green, P. G., & Nelson, D. C. (2006). Mercury methylation from unexpected sources: Molybdate-inhibited freshwater sediments and an iron-reducing bacterium. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 72(1), 457–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hatcher, A., Patriquin, D. G., Fern, Y. F., Hanson, A. J., & Reade, J. (1981). Salt marshes in Nova Scotia; a status report of the salt marsh working group. Halifax: Institute for Resource and Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University.Google Scholar
  19. Henneke, E., Luther, G. W., & De Lange, G. J. (1991). Determination of inorganic sulphur speciation with polarographic techniques: Some preliminary results from recent hypersaline anoxic environments. Marine Geology, 100, 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hines, M. E. (1991). The role of certain infauna and vascular plants in the mediation of redox reactions in marine sediments. In J. Berthelin (Ed.), Diversity of environmental biogeochemistry (pp. 275–285). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  21. Hines, M. E., Knollmeyer, S. L., & Tugel, J. B. (1989). Sulfate reduction and other sedimentary biogeochemistry in a northern New England salt marsh. Limnology and Oceanography, 34, 578–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hung, G. A., & Chmura, G. L. (2006). Mercury accumulation in surface sediments of salt marshes of the Bay of Fundy. Environmental Pollution, 142, 418–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Leermakers, M., Elskens, M., Panutrakul, S., Monteny, F., & Baeyens, W. (1993). Geochemistry of mercury in an intertidal flat of the Scheldt estuary. Netherlands Journal of Aquatic Ecology, 27, 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Likens, G. E., Driscoll, C. T., Buso, D. C., Mitchell, M. J., Lovett, G. M., Bailey, S. W., et al. (2002). The biogeochemistry of sulphur at Hubbard Brook. Biogeochemistry, 60, 235–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lord, C. J., & Church, T. M. (1983). The geochemistry of salt marshes: Sedimentary ion diffusion, sulfate reduction, and pyritization. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 47, 1381–1391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Loring, D. H. (1991). Normalization of heavy-metal data from estuarine and coastal sediments. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 48, 101–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luther, G. W., & Church, T. M. (1992). An overview of the environmental chemistry of sulphur in wetland systems. In R. W. Howarth, J. W. B. Sterwart, & M. V. Ivanov (Eds.), Sulphur cycling on the continents (pp. 125–142). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  28. Luther, G. W., Giblin, A. E., & Varsolona, R. (1985). Polarographic analysis of sulphur species in marine porewaters. Limnology and Oceanography, 30, 727–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luther, G. W., Ferdelman, T. G., Kostka, J. E., Tsamakis, E. J., & Church, T. M. (1991). Temporal and spatial variability of reduced sulfur species (FeS2, S2O32−) and porewater parameters in salt marsh sediments. Biogeochemistry, 14, 57–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Madureira, M. J., Vale, C., & Gonçalves, M. L. S. (1997). Effect of plants on sulphur geochemistry in the Tagus salt-marshes sediments. Marine Chemistry, 58(1–2), 27–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morse, J. W., & Luther, G. W. (1999). Chemical influence on trace metal–sulphide interactions in anoxic sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 63, 3373–3378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. O’Driscoll, N. J., Rencz, A., & Lean, D. R. S. (2005a). The biogeochemistry and fate of mercury in the environment. In A. Sigel, H. Sigel, & R. K. O. Sigel (Eds.), Metal ions in biological systems, vol 43 (pp. 221–238). Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  33. O’Driscoll, N. J., Rencz, A. N., & Lean, D.R.S. (Eds.) (2005b). In Mercury cycling in a wetland dominated ecosystem: A multidisciplinary study. Pensacola: SETAC. Google Scholar
  34. Pickhardt, P. C., Folt, C. L., Chen, C. Y., Klaue, B., & Blum, J. D. (2005). Impacts of zooplankton composition and algal enrichment on the accumulation of mercury in an experimental freshwater food web. The Science of the Total Environment, 339(1–3), 89–101.Google Scholar
  35. Qureshi, A., O’Driscoll, N. J., MacLeod, M., Neuhold, Y., & Hungerbühler, K. (2010). Diurnal photoreactions of mercury in surface ocean water: Quantitative rate kinetics, reaction pathways and a predictive model. Environmental Science & Technology, 44(2), 644–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rantala, R. T., & Loring, D. H. (1975). Multi-element analysis of silicate rocks and marine sediments by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Atomic Absorption Newsletter, 14, 117–120.Google Scholar
  37. Ravichandran, M. (2004). Interactions between mercury and dissolved organic matter. A review Chemosphere, 55(3), 319–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rickard, D., & Morse, J. W. (2005). Acid volatile sulphide. Marine Chemistry, 97, 141–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shippers, A., & Jorgenssen, B. B. (2002). Biogeochemistry of pyrite and iron sulphide oxidation in marine sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 66(1), 85–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. St Louis, V. L., Rudd, J. W. M., Kelly, C. A., Bodaly, R. A., Paterson, M. J., Beaty, K. G., et al. (2004). The rise and fall of mercury methylation in an experimental reservoir. Environmental Science & Technology, 38(5), 1348–1358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stanley, C. R., O’Driscoll, N. J., & Ranjam, P. (2010). Determining the magnitude of true analytical error in geochemical analysis. Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, 10, 355–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sundby, B., Vale, C., Caetano, M., & Luther, G. (2003). Redox chemistry in the root zone of a salt marsh sediment in the Tagus estuary. Aquatic Geochemistry, 9, 257–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thamdrup, B., Finster, K., Fossing, H., Hansen, J. W., & Jørgensen, B. B. (1994). Thiosulphate and sulfite distributions in porewater of marine sediments related to manganese, iron, and sulfur geochemistry. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 58, 67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ullrich, S. M., Tanton, T. W., & Abdrashitova, S. A. (2001). Mercury in the aquatic environment: A review of factor affecting methylation. Crtical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, 31, 241–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). (2007). Method 7473: Mercury in solids and solutions by thermal decomposition, amalgamation, and atomic absorption spectrophotometry. February, 2007 revision (SW-846).Google Scholar
  46. Vale, C., Catarino, F., Cortesão, C., & Caçador, M. I. (1990). Presence of metal-rich rhizoconcretions on the roots of Spartina maritima from the salt marshes of the Tagus estuary. Portugal Science of the Total Environment, 97/98, 617–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang, W.-X., Stupakoff, I., Gagnon, C., & Fisher, N. S. (1998). Bioavailability of inorganic and methylmercury to a marine deposit-feeding polychaete. Environmental Science & Technology, 32, 2564–2571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wells, P. G., Daborn, G. R., Percy, J. A., Harvey, J., & Rolston, S. J. 2004. Health of the Bay of Fundy: Assessing key issues. Environment Canada Occasional Report #21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nelson J. O’Driscoll
    • 1
    • 2
  • João Canário
    • 3
  • Nathan Crowell
    • 4
  • Tim Webster
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth & Environmental ScienceAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  2. 2.K.C. Irving Environmental Science CentreWolfvilleCanada
  3. 3.IPIMAR/INRB IPLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG)Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS)LawrencetownCanada

Personalised recommendations