Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Investigating the sources and fate of monomethylmercury and dimethylmercury in the Arctic marine boundary layer and waters
Monomethylmercury (MMHg), the most bioavailable form of mercury (Hg) and a potent neurotoxin, is present at elevated concentrations in Arctic marine mammals posing serious health threats to the local populations relying on marine food for their subsistence living. The sources of MMHg in the Arctic Ocean surface water and the role of dimethylmercury (DMHg) as a source of MMHg remain unclear. The objective of this research was to determine the sources and fate of methylated Hg species (MMHg and DMHg) in the marine ecosystem by investigating processes controlling the presence of methylated Hg species in the Arctic Ocean marine boundary layer (MBL) and surface waters. A method based on solid phase adsorption on Bond Elut ENV was developed and successfully used for unprecedented measurement of methylated Hg species in the MBL in Hudson Bay (HB) and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA). MMHg and DMHg concentrations averaged 2.9 ± 3.6 (mean ± SD) and 3.8 ± 3.1 pg m-3, respectively, and varied significantly among sampling sites. MMHg in the MBL is suspected to be the product of marine DMHg degradation in the atmosphere. MMHg summer (June to September) atmospheric wet deposition rates were estimated to be 188 ± 117.5 ng m-2 and 37 ± 21.7 ng m-2 for HB and CAA, respectively, sustaining MMHg concentrations available for bio-magnification in the pelagic food web. The production and loss of methylated Hg species in surface waters was assessed using enriched stable isotope tracers. MMHg production in surface water was observed from methylation of inorganic Hg (Hg(II)) and, for the first time, from DMHg demethylation with experimentally derived rate constants of 0.92 ± 0.82 x 10-3 d-1 and 0.04 ± 0.02 d-1 respectively. DMHg demethyation rate constant (0.98 ± 0.51 d-1) was higher than that of MMHg (0.35 ± 0.25 d-1). Furthermore, relationships with environmental parameters suggest that methylated Hg species transformations in surface water are mainly biologically driven. We propose that in addition to Hg(II) methylation, the main processes controlling MMHg production in the Arctic Ocean surface waters are DMHg demethylation and deposition of atmospheric MMHg. These results are valuable for a better understanding of the cycle of methylated Hg in the Arctic marine environment. Author Keywords: Arctic Ocean, Atmosphere, Demethylation, Dimethylmercury, Methylation, Monomethylmercury

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