MMHg production and export from intertidal sediments to the water column of a tidal lagoon (Arcachon Bay, France)
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Hg cycling in biologically productive coastal areas is of special importance given the potential for bioaccumulation of monomethylmercury (MMHg) into aquatic organisms. Field experiments were performed during three different seasons in Arcachon Bay, a mesotidal lagoon (SW France), to assess the variability of the water column concentrations, sediment–water exchanges and potential formation and degradation of MMHg. The objectives were to evaluate the contribution of intertidal mudflats to MMHg production and the various pathways of Hg species export. Dissolved and bulk concentrations of Hg species in the water column downstream of tidal flats were measured throughout several tidal cycles. The Hg benthic fluxes at the sediment–water interface were determined by means of benthic chambers for three different stations. Hg methylation and demethylation potentials were determined in surficial sediments and the water column using isotopic tracers. The tidal surveys demonstrated that benthic remobilization of Hg occurs primarily in association with sediment erosion and advection during ebb tide. However, elevated dissolved Hg concentrations observed at low tide were found to be caused by a combination of pore-waters seeping, benthic fluxes and methylation in the water column. Benthic fluxes were more intense during late winter conditions (median MMHg and inorganic Hg (IHg) fluxes: 64 and 179 pmol m−2 h−1, respectively) and subsequently decreased in spring (median 0.7 and −5 pmol m−2 h−1, respectively) and fall (median −0.4 and −1.3 pmol m−2 h−1, respectively). The trends in methylation and demethylation potentials were at the opposite of the fluxes, two times lower during winter than for spring or fall conditions. In this tidal environment, MMHg production in surface sediments and its subsequent release is estimated to be the major source of MMHg to the water column during winter and spring time. However, during the more productive summer period, the Hg methylation extent in the water column may be very significant and equivalent to the sediment contribution.
KeywordsMercury species Coastal ecosystem Tidal cycling Benthic reactivity
This work is a contribution to the PROTIDAL project (ANR Blanc program) and Littoral Atlantic project (PNEC program). The authors would like to thank the municipality of Lanton (Arcachon Bay, France) for the logistic organization of the field campaigns. The authors greatly appreciate technical assistance from R. Marc, A. Masson and C. Robineau (LEMAR IUEM, CNRS/UBO/IRD, Plouzané, France) and R. Bridou, P. Pinel-Raffaitin and D. Point (IPREM-LCABIE) during field campaigns. The authors also thank A. Mouret and Dr. B. Deflandre (EPOC, University of Bordeaux, France) for providing us with some major geochemical measurements and Dr. A Migné (University of Paris 6, Roscoff, France) for the microphytobenthos biomass data. One anonymous reviewer and Dr. Carl Lamborg (WHOI) are greatly acknowledged for constructive comments during the review process and a revision of the manuscript at its final stage, respectively. S. Bouchet and P. Rodriguez-Gonzalez acknowledge respectively the French and the Spanish Ministers of Education and Research for their respective PhD and Postdoctoral fellowships.
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