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Mercury and methylmercury concentrations, sources and distribution in submarine canyon sediments (Capbreton, SW France): Implications for the net methylmercury production

Azaroff, Alyssa, Tessier, Emmanuel, Deborde, Jonathan, Guyoneaud, Rémy, Monperrus, Mathilde
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.673 pp. 511-521
biogeochemistry, canyons, clay fraction, continental shelf, demethylation, fish, isotope labeling, marine environment, mercury, methylation, methylmercury compounds, microbial activity, organic matter, sediments, slurries, terraces, France
Submarine canyons are important stocks of commercial interest fish, whose consumption is one of the main monomethymercury (MeHg) exposure to humans. Currently, biogeochemistry of mercury in those biologically productive system is unknown. In this work, inorganic mercury (Hg(II)) and organic mercury (MeHg) distributions were measured in sedimentary accumulative zones (slopes and terraces) against adjacent continental shelf sediments. Hg compound concentrations in these sediments show a huge range of concentrations (Hg(II) ranging from 18 to 973 ng g−1 and MeHg ranging from 0.07 to 2.03 ng g−1) exhibiting factors 50 and 20 fold, respectively. Higher values of mercury compounds were observed in canyon locations suggesting a high accumulation of mercury associated with higher values of clay fraction and organic matter content. The reactivity of mercury was investigated in sediment of three locations along Capbreton submarine canyon axis using slurry incubations experiments and isotopic tracers. Specific methylation and demethylation rate constants (kM and kD) were calculated. Results clearly showed that MeHg concentrations in these sediments are controlled by competing and simultaneous methylation and demethylation reactions mainly mediated by biotic process. Mercury reactivity was found higher in coastal stations compared to the offshore station due to more labile organic matter which may stimulate microbial activities. However, higher net MeHg production was estimated for the offshore station due to high Hg(II) concentrations suggesting a potential MeHg source for such marine environments.