Cycling of dissolved elemental mercury in Arctic Alaskan lakes

C. M. Tseng, C. Lamborg, W. F. Fitzgerald, D. R. Engstrom

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61 Scopus citations


Aqueous production and water-air exchange of elemental mercury (Hg0) are important features of the environmental cycling of Hg. We investigated Hg0 cycling in ten Arctic Alaskan lakes that spanned a wide range in physicochemical characteristics. Dissolved gaseous Hg (DGM, dominated by Hg0) varied from 40 to 430 fM and averaged 200 fM. All surface waters were supersaturated relative to the atmosphere. DGM averaged 3 ± 2% of dissolved (i.e., filter passing) dissolved total mercury (DTM) and 15 ± 6% of dissolved labile Hg (DLM). In-lake DGM profiles generally followed the vertical distribution of light, indicating photoreduction of Hg(II) complexes as a source of Hg0. Additionally, DGM correlated linearly with DLM (r2 = 0.82, p < 0.0001) in the lake surface, signifying that Hg complexes (mostly organic Hg associations) in dissolved phase are photoreducible and contribute to production of DGM. Further, a positive relation between DGM/DTM and both Ka (light attenuation coefficient; r2 = 0.73, p < 0.02) and DOC (r2 = 0.60, p = 0.02) suggests that solar radiation and dissolved organic matter control DGM production and its cycling. An average rate of DGM formation (0.6 ± 0.2% of DTM d-1; range, 0.20.8) was estimated by assuming steady state with the evasional rate. In-lake DGM formation occurs at lower rates in waters with greater suspended particulate matter and dissolved organic carbon (DOC), pointing to the significant role of organic matter plays in controlling DGM formation in these aquatic systems. Estimated evasional fluxes of Hg0 (average, 140 ± 50 pmol m-2 d-1; range, 60-200) were comparable to those of temperate lakes (e.g., Wisconsin, Michigan). In arctic lakes, the rate of evasion during ice-free periods (7 ± 3 nmol m-2 yr-1) is similar to the atmospheric input of Hg (wet + dry) to the lakes based on levels in summertime precipitation but not including additional sources, e.g., springtime depletion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1173-1184
Number of pages12
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2004
Externally publishedYes

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