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Use of stable isotope signatures to determine mercury sources in the Great Lakes

November 12, 2015

Sources of mercury (Hg) in Great Lakes sediments were assessed with stable Hg isotope ratios using multicollector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. An isotopic mixing model based on mass-dependent (MDF) and mass-independent fractionation (MIF) (δ202Hg and Δ199Hg) identified three primary Hg sources for sediments: atmospheric, industrial, and watershed-derived. Results indicate atmospheric sources dominate in Lakes Huron, Superior, and Michigan sediments while watershed-derived and industrial sources dominate in Lakes Erie and Ontario sediments. Anomalous Δ200Hg signatures, also apparent in sediments, provided independent validation of the model. Comparison of Δ200Hg signatures in predatory fish from three lakes reveals that bioaccumulated Hg is more isotopically similar to atmospherically derived Hg than a lake’s sediment. Previous research suggests Δ200Hg is conserved during biogeochemical processing and odd mass-independent fractionation (MIF) is conserved during metabolic processing, so it is suspected even is similarly conserved. Given these assumptions, our data suggest that in some cases, atmospherically derived Hg may be a more important source of MeHg to higher trophic levels than legacy sediments in the Great Lakes.

Publication Year 2015
Title Use of stable isotope signatures to determine mercury sources in the Great Lakes
DOI 10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00277
Authors Ryan F. Lepak, Runsheng Yin, David P. Krabbenhoft, Jacob M. Ogorek, John F. DeWild, Thomas M. Holsen, James P. Hurley
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology Letters
Index ID 70159807
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program; Wisconsin Water Science Center