Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 128, Issue 1–2, pp 41–60 | Cite as

Methylmercury Production and Accumulation in Sediments and Soils of an Amazonian Floodplain – Effect of Seasonal Inundation

  • M. Roulet
  • J.-R. D. Guimarães
  • M. Lucotte


This study investigated the spatialand seasonal variations of MeHg concentrations andburdens of different sediments and soils of theTapajós river floodplain, one of the majorclear-water tributaries of the Amazon. The smallfloodplain of the Tapajós is typical of Amazonianfloodplain ecosystems. The studied lakes are borderedby inundated forest (igapó), while floatingmacrophyte mats (Paspalum sp.) develop at themargin of lakes during the flooded season. During theflood, we observed very low MeHg concentrations in theopen water lake sediments (<0.5 ng g-1 d.w or<0.5 μg m-2 cm-1 d.w.) as compared to thesemi-aquatic sediments of the macrophyte zone (0.2–1.4 ng g-1 d.w or 1–3 μg m-2cm-1 d.w.) and the igapó semi-terrestrial soils (0.2–3 ng g-1 d.w or2–12 μg m-2 cm-1 d.w.). The litter horizon fromthe igapó soils showed the highest value of MeHg(4–8 ng g-1 d.w.) representing 0.2–2 μg m-2cm-1 d.w. at the sediment/water interface during theaquatic phase. The inundation had no effect on theconcentrations and burdens of MeHg in the sediment ofthe central part of the lake. The inundation had aclear effect on the methylation of Hg at the surfaceof semi-aquatic shoreline sediments (macrophyte zone)and semi-terrestrial forest soils, where MeHgconcentrations and burdens appeared to be 3 timesgreater following inundation. In all cores, total Hgconcentrations follow those of Fe and Aloxy-hydroxides, whereas the MeHg concentrations arelinked to organic matter quality and quantity. It issuggested that organic matter and inundation controlMeHg production and accumulation at the benthicinterface. These results confirm previousobservations, in the same study area, of net203Hg methylation potentials. The fresh andlabile organic matter in the litter of the igapóforest appears as the most important factor leading tosignificant enrichment of MeHg in these particularterrestrial/aquatic sedimentary environments.

Amazonia floodplain igapó methylmercury seasonal inundation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Roulet
    • 1
  • J.-R. D. Guimarães
    • 2
  • M. Lucotte
    • 1
  1. 1.Chaire de Recherche en Environnement H-Q/CRSNG/UQAMUniversity du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Laboratório de RadioisótoposInst. de Biofísica da UFRJRio de JaneiroBrazil

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