Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Bacterial methylmercury degradation in Florida Everglades peat sediment

January 1, 1998

Methylmercury (MeHg) degradation was investigated along an eutrophication gradient in the Florida Everglades by quantifying 14CH4 and 14CO2 production after incubation of anaerobic sediments with [14C]MeHg. Degradation rate constants (k) were consistently ≤0.1 d-1 and decreased with sediment depth. Higher k values were observed when shorter incubation times and lower MeHg amendment levels were used, and k increased 2-fold as in-situ MeHg concentrations were approached. The average floc layer k was 0.046 ± 0.023 d-1 (n = 17) for 1−2 day incubations. In-situ degradation rates were estimated to be 0.02−0.5 ng of MeHg (g of dry sediment)-1 d-1, increasing from eutrophied to pristine areas. Nitrate-respiring bacteria did not demethylate MeHg, and NO3- addition partially inhibited degradation in some cases. MeHg degradation rates were not affected by PO43- addition. 14CO2 production in all samples indicated that oxidative demethylation (OD) was an important degradation mechanism. OD occurred over 5 orders of magnitude of applied MeHg concentration, with lowest limits [1−18 ng of MeHg (g of dry sediment)-1] in the range of in-situ MeHg levels. Sulfate reducers and methanogens were the primary agents of anaerobic OD, although it is suggested that methanogens dominate degradation at in-situ MeHg concentrations. Specific pathways of OD by these two microbial groups are proposed.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Bacterial methylmercury degradation in Florida Everglades peat sediment
DOI 10.1021/es971099l
Authors M. C. Marvin-DiPasquale, R.S. Oremland
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70020050
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program