Factors controlling temporal and spatial distribution of total mercury and methylmercury in hyporheic sediments of the Allequash Creek wetland, northern Wisconsin

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Abstract

[1] Hyporheic pore water samples were collected from two sites within the Allequash Creek wetland, in Vilas County, northern Wisconsin, from August 2003 to October 2004. Samples were collected simultaneously at the surface and at 2, 5, 7, 10, and 15 cm below the sediment-water interface. Concentration ranges were 3.7 to 58 pM for inorganic mercury, <0.5 to 16 pM for methylmercury, 3.02 to 152 μM and 0.38 to 96.6 μM for oxidized and reduced iron, respectively, 1.28 to 48.2 μM and< 0.05 to 9.76 μM for oxidized and reduced sulfur, respectively, and 109 to 689 μM for dissolved organic carbon. These concentrations are typical of anoxic environments such as wetlands and lake sediments. These data were used to gain a better understanding of the processes controlling spatial and temporal variability of inorganic mercury and methylmercury. Findings show that conditions conducive to mercury methylation exist in the hyporheic zone, especially in late summer, when accumulation of reduced iron and sulfide are indicative of microbial iron and sulfate reduction. Methylmercury concentrations also peak in late summer, with the highest concentrations appearing 2 to 10 cm below the sediment-water interface. While there is a general covariance of total mercury and methylmercury over the depth profile, poor correlation was observed over time, highlighting the dynamic nature of hyporheic zone conditions and suggesting changes in mercury speciation and partitioning.

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