Waterscape determinants of net mercury methylation in a tropical wetland

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Abstract

The periphyton associated with freshwater macrophyte roots is the main site of Hg methylation in different wetland environments in the world. The aim of this study was to test the use of connectivity metrics of water bodies, in the context of patches, in a tropical waterscape wetland (Guapore River, Amazonia, Brazil) as a predictor of potential net methylmercury (MeHg) production by periphyton communities. We sampled 15 lakes with different patterns of lateral connectivity with the main river channel, performing net mercury methylation potential tests in incubations with local water and Eichhornia crassipes root-periphyton samples, using 203HgCl2 as a tracer. Physico-chemical variables, landscape data (morphological characteristics, land use, and lateral connection type of water bodies) using GIS resources and field data were analyzed with Generalized Additive Models (GAM). The net Me203Hg production (as % of total added 203Hg) was expressive (6.2–25.6%) showing that periphyton is an important matrix in MeHg production. The model that best explained the variation in the net Me203Hg production (76%) was built by the variables: connection type, total phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in water (AICc=48.324, p=0.001). Connection type factor was the best factor to model fit (r2=0.32; p=0.008) and temporarily connected lakes had higher rates of net mercury methylation. Both DOC and total phosphorus showed positive significant covariation with the net methylation rates (r2=0.26; p=0.008 and r2=0.21; p=0.012 respectively). Our study suggests a strong relationship between rates of net MeHg production in this tropical area and the type of water body and its hydrological connectivity within the waterscape.

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