The interplay between total mercury, methylmercury and dissolved organic matter in fluvial systems: A latitudinal study across Europe

Andrea G. Bravo, Dolly N. Kothawala, Katrin Attermeyer, Emmanuel Tessier, Pascal Bodmer, José L. Ledesma, Joachim Audet, Joan Pere Casas-Ruiz, Núria Catalán, Sophie Cauvy-Fraunié, Miriam Colls, Anne Deininger, Vesela V. Evtimova, Jérémy A. Fonvielle, Thomas Fuß, Peter Gilbert, Sonia Herrero Ortega, Liu Liu, Clara Mendoza-Lera, Juliana MonteiroJordi-Rene Mor, Magdalena Nagler, Georg H. Niedrist, Anna C. Nydahl, Ada Pastor, Josephine Pegg, Catherine G. Roberts, Francesca Pilotto, Ana P. Portela, Clara R. Gonzalez-Quijano, Ferran Romero, Martin Rulik, David Amouroux

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Large-scale studies are needed to identify the drivers of total mercury (THg) and monomethyl-mercury (MeHg) concentrations in aquatic ecosystems. Studies attempting to link dissolved organic matter (DOM) to levels of THg or MeHg are few and geographically constrained. Additionally, stream and river systems have been understudied as compared to lakes. Hence, the aim of the study was to examine the influence of DOM concentration and composition, morphological descriptors, land uses and water chemistry on THg and MeHg concentrations and the percentage of THg as MeHg (%MeHg) in 29 streams across Europe spanning from 41°N to 64 °N. THg concentrations (0.06 – 2.78 ng L-1) were highest in streams characterized by DOM with a high terrestrial soil signature and low nutrient content. MeHg concentrations (78 – 160 pg L-1) varied non-systematically across systems. Relationships between DOM bulk characteristics and THg and MeHg suggest that while soil derived DOM inputs control THg concentrations, autochthonous DOM (aquatically produced) and the availability of electron acceptors for Hg methylating microorganisms (e.g. sulfate) drive %MeHg and potentially MeHg concentration. Overall, these results highlight the large spatial variability in THg and MeHg concentrations at European scale, and underscore the importance of DOM composition on Hg cycling in fluvial systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-182
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Early online date29 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • Streams
  • Rivers


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