New paper - Mercury presence and speciation in the South Atlantic Ocean / 23.02.2016

Mercury presence and speciation in the South Atlantic Ocean along the 40°S transect


Mercury (Hg) natural biogeochemical cycle is complex and a significant portion of biological and chemical transformation occurs in the marine environment. To better understand the presence and abundance of Hg species in the remote ocean regions, waters of South Atlantic Ocean along 40°S parallel were investigated during UK-GEOTRACES cruise GA10. Total mercury (THg), methylated mercury (MeHg), and dissolved gaseous mercury (DGM) concentrations were determined. The concentrations were very low in the range of pg/L (femtomolar). All Hg species had higher concentration in western than in eastern basin. THg did not appear to be a useful geotracer. Elevated methylated Hg species were commonly associated with low-oxygen water masses and occasionally with peaks of chlorophyll a, both involved with carbon (re)cycling. The overall highest MeHg concentrations were observed in the mixed layer (500 m) and in the vicinity of the Gough Island. Conversely, DGM concentrations showed distinct layering and differed between the water masses in a nutrient-like manner. DGM was lowest at surface, indicating degassing to the atmosphere, and was highest in the Upper Circumpolar Deep Water, where the oxygen concentration was lowest. DGM increased also in Antarctic Bottom Water. At one station, dimethylmercury was determined and showed increase in region with lowest oxygen saturation. Altogether, our data indicate that the South Atlantic Ocean could be a source of Hg to the atmosphere and that its biogeochemical transformations depend primarily upon carbon cycling and are thereby additionally prone to global ocean change.