projects > aquatic cycling of mercury in the everglades
Aquatic Cycling of Mercury in the Everglades
For most aquatic ecosystems, atmospheric deposition is the primary source of mercury, although there are numerous instances of geologic and anthropogenic point-source contamination. There are many sources of mercury to the atmosphere, both natural and human related. Natural sources include outgassing from the oceans, volcanoes, and natural mercury deposits. Coal combustion, waste incineration, chloralkai production, and metal processing are the dominant human-related sources to the atmosphere. In ecosystems for which atmospheric deposition is the dominant source, resulting concentrations of total mercury in water are very low, generally less than 10 nanograms per liter (ng/L). The challenge to scientists is to explain the series of processes that lead to toxic or near-toxic levels of mercury in organisms near the top of the food chain (bioaccumulation), when aqueous concentrations and source-delivery rates are so low. To understand this phenomenon adequately, scientists must apply an interdisciplinary approach wherein various components of an ecosystem (atmosphere, biota, surface water, ground water, and sediments) are studied contemporaneously. The purpose of this fact sheet is to describe the mercury contamination problem in south Florida, and the interdisciplinary project that was assembled under the auspices of the U.S. Geological Survey South Florida Ecosystem Program to investigate the underlying processes that cause mercury bioaccumulation.
In response to this request from resource managers for more scientific information on mercury cycling in the Everglades, the USGS South Florida Ecosystem Program, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) are co-funding a group of scientists to study mercury bioaccumulation in the Everglades. Participating scientists are from several agencies, including: USGS, SFWMD, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), USEPA, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. The overall objective of this project is to provide resource managers scientific information on the hydrologic, biologic, and geochemical processes controlling mercury cycling in the Everglades. It is anticipated, however, that information from this project will be transferrable to other ecosystems where mercury problems arise. Specific areas of research among the group includes: geochemical studies of mercury, mercury methylation and demethylation studies, DOC-Hg interactions, mercury accumulation in sediments, diagenetic processes in peat, sulfur cycling studies, biological uptake of mercury and lower food chain transfer pathways, and groundwater/surface-water exchange.
Open File Reports
Scientific Investigations Reports