The accumulation of monomethyl mercury (CH3Hg+) in aquatic ecosystems is a redox sensitive process that is accelerated under sulfate-reducing conditions. While nitrate (NO3-) reduction is energetically favored over sulfate reduction, the influence of NO3- on the accumulation of CH3Hg+ has not been reported in the literature. We examined temporal and vertical patterns in redox constituents and CH3Hg+ concentrations in the hypolimnion of a dimictic lake, Onondaga Lake, prior to and following increases in NO3- inputs. Detailed water-column profiles and a long-term record revealed marked decreases in the accumulation of CH 3Hg+ in the anoxic hypolimnion coinciding with long-term decreases in the deposition of organic matter coupled with recent increases in NO3- concentrations. CH3Hg+ concentrations in the hypolimnion were substantially abated when NO 3- was present above the sediment-water interface. A decrease in the peak hypolimnetic mass of CH3Hg+ and shortening of the period of elevated CH3Hg+ concentrations resulted in more than a 50% decline in the accumulated CH3Hg +. NO3- regulation of CH3Hg + accumulation may be a widespread phenomenon in oxygen-limited freshwater and terrestrial environments, and could have an important, not previously recognized, effect on the biogeochemistry of mercury.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry