Mercury photoreduction and photooxidation in lakes: Effects of filtration and dissolved organic carbon concentration

Tom Sizmur


Received June 29, 2017,Revised , Accepted December 06, 2017, Available online December 22, 2017

Volume 68,2018,Pages 151-159

Mercury is a globally distributed, environmental contaminant. Quantifying the retention and loss of mercury is integral for predicting mercury-sensitive ecosystems. There is little information on how dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and particulates affect mercury photoreaction kinetics in freshwater lakes. To address this knowledge gap, samples were collected from ten lakes in Kejimkujik National Park, Nova Scotia (DOC: 2.6–15.4 mg/L). Filtered (0.2 μm) and unfiltered samples were analysed for gross photoreduction, gross photooxidation, and net reduction rates of mercury using pseudo first-order curves. Unfiltered samples had higher concentrations (p = 0.04) of photoreducible divalent mercury (Hg(II)RED) (mean of 754 ± 253 pg/L) than filtered samples (mean of 482 ± 206 pg/L); however, gross photoreduction and photooxidation rate constants were not significantly different in filtered or unfiltered samples in early summer. DOC was not significantly related to gross photoreduction rate constants in filtered (R2 = 0.43; p = 0.08) and unfiltered (R2 = 0.02; p = 0.71) samples; DOC was also not significantly related to gross photooxidation rate constants in filtered or unfiltered samples. However, DOC was significantly negatively related with Hg(II)RED in unfiltered (R2 = 0.53; p = 0.04), but not in filtered samples (R2 = 0.04; p = 0.60). These trends indicate that DOC is a factor in determining dissolved mercury photoreduction rates and particles partially control available Hg(II)RED in lake water. This research also demonstrates that within these lakes gross photoreduction and photooxidation processes are close to being in balance. Changes to catchment inputs of particulate matter and DOC may alter mercury retention in these lakes and could partially explain observed increases of mercury accumulation in biota.

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