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Biogeochemical controls on mercury methylation in the Allequash Creek wetland

Creswell, Joel E., Shafer, Martin M., Babiarz, Christopher L., Tan, Sue-Zanne, Musinsky, Abbey L., Schott, Trevor H., Roden, Eric E., Armstrong, David E.
Environmental science and pollution research international 2017 v.24 no.18 pp. 15325-15339
acid volatile sulfides, bacteria, bioavailability, carbon, iron, mercury, methylation, methylmercury compounds, models, sediments, streams, wetlands, Wisconsin
We measured mercury methylation potentials and a suite of related biogeochemical parameters in sediment cores and porewater from two geochemically distinct sites in the Allequash Creek wetland, northern Wisconsin, USA. We found a high degree of spatial variability in the methylation rate potentials but no significant differences between the two sites. We identified the primary geochemical factors controlling net methylmercury production at this site to be acid-volatile sulfide, dissolved organic carbon, total dissolved iron, and porewater iron(II). Season and demethylation rates also appear to regulate net methylmercury production. Our equilibrium speciation modeling demonstrated that sulfide likely regulated methylation rates by controlling the speciation of inorganic mercury and therefore its bioavailability to methylating bacteria. We found that no individual geochemical parameter could explain a significant amount of the observed variability in mercury methylation rates, but we found significant multivariate relationships, supporting the widely held understanding that net methylmercury production is balance of several simultaneously occurring processes.