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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 6, p. 2352-2359
    Received: Dec 22, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): msg@unr.nevada.edu
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Evaluation of Wetland Methyl Mercury Export as a Function of Experimental Manipulations

  1. Mae Sexauer Gustin *a,
  2. Prithviraj V. Chavanb,
  3. Keith E. Dennettb,
  4. Eric A. Marchandb and
  5. Susan Donaldsonc
  1. a Dep. of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557
    b Dep. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Univ. of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557
    c Nevada Cooperative Extension, Reno, NV 89520


Mercury associated with natural enrichment, historic mining, and ore processing is a contaminant of concern in watersheds of the western USA. In this region, water is a highly managed resource and wetlands, known to be important sites of methyl mercury production, are often an integral component of watersheds. This study applied controlled manipulations of four replicated experimental wetland designs with different water and soil mercury concentrations to determine the potential impacts on methyl mercury export. Wetlands were manipulated by drying and wetting, changing hydraulic retention time, and adding sulfate and nitrate to influent waters. In a summer drying and wetting manipulation, an immediate increase in total methyl mercury release was observed with rewetting, however, concentrations decreased quickly. Drying all wetlands over the winter and rewetting in the spring resulted in high net methyl mercury output relative to that observed before drying. Net methyl mercury output was not influenced by changes in hydraulic retention time from 4 to 8 h or to 30 min, or by increasing the nitrate concentration from 0.1 to 10 mg L−1 The addition of sulfate to the inlet waters of two mesocosms to increase concentrations from ∼100 to 250 mg L−1 did not result in a clear effect on methyl mercury output, most likely due to sulfate concentrations being higher than optimal for methyl mercury production. Despite the lack of response to sulfate amendments, the change in sulfate concentration between the inlet and outlet of the mesocosms and temperature were the parameters best correlated with methyl mercury outputs.

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