Early diagenesis of mercury in the Laurentian Great Lakes

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The early diagenesis of mercury in deep lake environments was investigated by examining the distribution of mercury among waters and sediments from several depositional basins in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Partitioning of mercury among different sediment phases was examined by sequential chemical extraction (using procedures specifically designed for mercury). Mercury in porewaters and sediment extracts was analyzed by flow-injection/hydride-generation atomic absorption spectroscopy. Results indicate that mercury is affected by early diagenesis at all of the sites studied. Much of the mercury is enriched in the surface layer of sediments, where it is primarily associated with organic matter and iron oxides. The redox cycling of iron and manganese influences the behavior of mercury; concentration profiles suggest that as oxides begin to dissolve in reduced sediments, nearly all of the adsorbed mercury is released. Organic matter decay also appears to release significant amounts of mercury. Porewater profiles suggest that most of the dissolved mercury released from decaying organic matter or from dissolving iron oxides may be taken up by freshly deposited organic matter and iron oxides in the near-surface layers. Much of the mercury that reaches the sediment column is thus recycled near the sediment-water interface, increasing both the residence time and the concentrations of mercury in surface sediments of these deep lake basins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-586
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
StatePublished - 1995


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