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Decadal trends of mercury cycling and bioaccumulation within Everglades National Park

May 17, 2022

Mercury (Hg) contamination has been a persistent concern in the Florida Everglades for over three decades due to elevated atmospheric deposition and the system's propensity for methylation and rapid bioaccumulation. Given declines in atmospheric Hg concentrations in the conterminous United States and efforts to mitigate nutrient release to the greater Everglades ecosystem, it was vital to assess how Hg dynamics responded on temporal and spatial scales. This study used a multimedia approach (water and biota) to examine Hg and methylmercury (MeHg) dynamics across a 76-site network within the southernmost portion of the region, Everglades National Park (ENP), from 2008 to 2018. Atmospheric Hg deposition was evaluated over time using a long-term monitoring station. Hg concentrations across matrices showed that air, water, and biota from the system were inextricably linked. Temporal patterns across matrices were driven primarily by hydrologic and climatic changes in the park and no evidence of a decline in atmospheric Hg deposition from 2008 to 2018 was observed, unlike other regions of the United States. In the Shark River Slough (SRS), excess dissolved organic carbon and sulfate were also consistently delivered from upgradient canals and showed no evidence of decline over the study period. Within the SRS a strong positive correlation was observed between MeHg concentrations in surface water and resident fish. Within distinct geographic regions of ENP (SRS, Marsh, Coastal), the geochemical controls on MeHg dynamics differed and highlighted regions susceptible to higher MeHg bioaccumulation, particularly in the SRS and Coastal regions. This study demonstrates the strong influence that dissolved organic carbon and sulfate loads have on spatial and temporal distributions of MeHg across the ENP. Importantly, improved water quality and flow rates are two key restoration targets of the nearly 30-year Everglades restoration program, which if achieved, this study suggests would lead to reduced MeHg production and exposure.

Publication Year 2022
Title Decadal trends of mercury cycling and bioaccumulation within Everglades National Park
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.156031
Authors Sarah E. Janssen, Michael T. Tate, Brett Poulin, David P. Krabbenhoft, John F DeWild, Jacob M. Ogorek, Matthew S. Varonka, William H. Orem, Jeffrey D Kline
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70231682
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center