Isotopic study of mercury sources and transfer between a freshwater lake and adjacent forest food web

TitleIsotopic study of mercury sources and transfer between a freshwater lake and adjacent forest food web
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKwon SYun, Blum JD, Nadelhoffer KJ, J. Dvonch T, Tsui MTsz-Ki
JournalScience of The Total Environment
Pagination220 - 229
Date PublishedJan-11-2015
Keywordsemergent insects, Food webs, FORESTS, Lakes, Mercury stable isotopes, Methylmercury

Studies of monomethylmercury (MMHg) sources and biogeochemical pathways have been extensive in aquatic ecosystems, but limited in forest ecosystems. Increasing evidence suggests that there is significant mercury (Hg) exchange between aquatic and forest ecosystems. We use Hg stable isotope ratios (δ202Hg and Δ199Hg) to investigate the relative importance of MMHg sources and assess Hg transfer pathways between Douglas Lake and adjacent forests located at the University of Michigan Biological Station, USA. We characterize Hg isotopic compositions of basal resources and use linear regression of % MMHg versus δ202Hg and Δ199Hg to estimate Hg isotope values for inorganic mercury (IHg) and MMHg in the aquatic and adjacent forest food webs. In the aquatic ecosystem, we found that lake sediment represents a mixture of IHg pools deposited via watershed runoff and precipitation. The δ202Hg and Δ199Hg values estimated for IHg are consistent with other studies that measured forest floor in temperate forests. The Δ199Hg value estimated for MMHg in the aquatic food web indicates that MMHg is subjected to ~20% photochemical degradation prior to bioaccumulation. In the forest ecosystem, we found a significant negative relationship between total Hg and δ202Hg and Δ199Hg of soil collected at multiple distances from the lakeshore and lake sediment. This suggests that IHg input from watershed runoff provides an important Hg transfer pathway between the forest and aquatic ecosystems. We measured Δ199Hg values for high trophic level insects and compared these insects at multiple distances perpendicular to the lake shoreline. The Δ199Hg values correspond to the % canopy cover suggesting that forest MMHg is subjected to varying extents of photochemical degradation and the extent may be controlled by sunlight. Our study demonstrates that the use of Hg isotopes adds important new insight into the relative importance of MMHg sources and complex Hg transfer pathways across ecosystem boundaries.

Short TitleScience of The Total Environment
Related research sites: 
South Fishtail Bay - Douglas Lake