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Total- and methyl-mercury concentrations and methylation rates across the freshwater to hypersaline continuum of the Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA

Johnson, William P., Swanson, Neil, Black, Brooks, Rudd, Abigail, Carling, Greg, Fernandez, Diego P., Luft, John, Van Leeuwen, Jim, Marvin-DiPasquale, Mark
The Science of the total environment 2015 v.511 pp. 489-500
Artemia, Diptera, anaerobic conditions, aquatic invertebrates, birds, freshwater, mercury, methylation, methylmercury compounds, sediments, temporal variation, terrestrial ecosystems, tin, wetlands, Great Salt Lake, Utah
We examined mercury (Hg) speciation in water and sediment of the Great Salt Lake and surrounding wetlands, a locale spanning fresh to hypersaline and oxic to anoxic conditions, in order to test the hypothesis that spatial and temporal variations in Hg concentration and methylation rates correspond to observed spatial and temporal trends in Hg burdens previously reported in biota. Water column, sediment, and pore water concentrations of methylmercury (MeHg) and total mercury (THg), as well as related aquatic chemical parameters were examined. Inorganic Hg(II)-methylation rates were determined in selected water column and sediment subsamples spiked with inorganic divalent mercury (204Hg(II)). Net production of Me204Hg was expressed as apparent first-order rate constants for methylation (kmeth), which were also expanded to MeHg production potential (MPP) rates via combination with tin reducible ‘reactive’ Hg(II) (Hg(II)R) as a proxy for bioavailable Hg(II). Notable findings include: 1) elevated Hg concentrations previously reported in birds and brine flies were spatially proximal to the measured highest MeHg concentrations, the latter occurring in the anoxic deep brine layer (DBL) of the Great Salt Lake; 2) timing of reduced Hg(II)-methylation rates in the DBL (according to both kmeth and MPP) coincides with reduced Hg burdens among aquatic invertebrates (brine shrimp and brine flies) that act as potential vectors of Hg propagation to the terrestrial ecosystem; 3) values of kmeth were found to fall within the range reported by other studies; and 4) MPP rates were on the lower end of the range reported in methodologically comparable studies, suggesting the possibility that elevated MeHg in the anoxic deep brine layer results from its accumulation and persistence in this quasi-isolated environment, due to the absence of light (restricting abiotic photo demethylation) and/or minimal microbiological demethylation.