Mercury Cycling in Salt Marsh Pond Ecosystems: Cape Cod, MA

Friday, 19 December 2014
Priya M Ganguli1, Meagan Eagle Gonneea1, Carl H Lamborg1, Kevin D Kroeger2, Gretchen Swarr1, Kara Jayne Vadman3, Sandra Baldwin2, Thomas W Brooks2 and Adrian Green2, (1)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (2)USGS, Woods Hole, MA, United States, (3)University of South Florida Tampa, Tampa, FL, United States
We are measuring total mercury (HgT) and monomethylmercury (CH3Hg+ or MMHg) in pore water, surface water, and sediment cores from two salt marsh pond systems on the south shore of Cape Cod, MA to characterize the distribution of mercury species and to identify features that influence mercury speciation and transport. Sage Lot Pond is relatively undisturbed and has low nitrogen loading (12 kg ha-1 y-1). It is part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Reserve and is surrounded by undeveloped wooded uplands. In contrast, Great Pond is highly impacted. Nitrogen loading to the site is elevated (600 kg ha-1 y-1) and the marsh is adjacent to a large residential area. In both systems, a 1 to 2 m organic-rich peat layer overlies the permeable sand aquifer. Groundwater in this region is typically oxic, where pore water within salt marsh peat is suboxic to anoxic. We hypothesize that redox gradients at the transition from the root zone to peat and at the peat-sand interface may provide habitat for MMHg-producing anaerobic bacteria. Preliminary results from a 2-m nearshore depth profile at Sage Lot Pond indicate HgT in groundwater within the sand aquifer occurred primarily in the > 0.2 µm fraction, with unfiltered concentrations exceeding 100 pM. Filtered (< 0.2 µm) HgT in groundwater was substantially lower (~ 5 pM). In contrast, HgT concentrations in filtered and unfiltered pore water within the peat layer were similar and ranged from about 2 to 3 pM. Complexation between mercury and dissolved organic carbon may account for the elevated fraction of filtered HgT in peat pore water. Although MMHg in both groundwater and pore water remained around 1 pM throughout our depth profile, we observed an increase in sediment MMHg (0.3 to 1.6 µg/kg) at the peat-sand interface. MMHg comprised ~50% of the HgT concentration in pore water suggesting mercury in the salt marsh peat is biologically available.