Mercury methylation rates of biofilm and plankton microorganisms from a hydroelectric reservoir in French Guiana

Abstract : The Petit-Saut ecosystem is a hydroelectric reservoir covering 365 km2 of flooded tropical forest. This reservoir and the Sinnamary Estuary downstream of the dam are subject to significant mercury methylation. The mercury methylation potential of plankton and biofilm microorganisms/components from different depths in the anoxic reservoir water column and from two different sites along the estuary was assessed. For this, reservoir water and samples of epiphytic biofilms from the trunk of a submerged tree in the anoxic water column and from submerged branches in the estuary were batch-incubated from 1 h to 3 months with a nominal 1000 ng/L spike of Hg(II) chloride enriched in 199Hg. Methylation rates were determined for different reservoir and estuarine communities under natural nutrient (reservoir water, estuary freshwater) and artificial nutrient (culture medium) conditions. Methylation rates in reservoir water incubations were the highest with plankton microorganisms sampled at − 9.5 m depth (0.5%/d) without addition of biofilm components. Mercury methylation rates of incubated biofilm components were strongly enhanced by nutrient addition. The results suggested that plankton microorganisms strongly contribute to the total Hg methylation in the Petit-Saut reservoir and in the Sinnamary Estuary. Moreover, specific methylation efficiencies (%Me199Hgnet/cell) suggested that plankton microorganisms could be more efficient methylating actors than biofilm consortia and that their methylation efficiency may be reduced in the presence of biofilm components. Extrapolation to the reservoir scale of the experimentally determined preliminary methylation efficiencies suggested that plankton microorganisms in the anoxic water column could produce up to 27 mol MeHg/year. Taking into account that (i) demethylation probably occurs in the reservoir and (ii) that the presence of biofilm components may limit the methylation efficiency of plankton microorganisms, this result is highly consistent with the annual net MeHg production estimated from mass balances (8.1 mol MeHg/year, Muresan et al., 2008a).
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/hal-01849621
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Submitted on : Thursday, July 26, 2018 - 1:32:38 PM
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L. Huguet, S. Castelle, J. Schäfer, G. Blanc, R. Maury-Brachet, et al.. Mercury methylation rates of biofilm and plankton microorganisms from a hydroelectric reservoir in French Guiana. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2010, 408 (6), pp.1338 - 1348. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.10.058⟩. ⟨hal-01849621⟩

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