Distribution of total mercury and methylated mercury species in Central Arctic Ocean water and ice
Journal article, 2022
The central Arctic Ocean remains largely unexplored when it comes to the presence and cycling of mercury and its methylated forms including mono- and dimethylmercury (MMeHg and DMeHg, respectively). In this study, we quantified total Hg (HgT) and methylated Hg species in seawater, ice cores, snow, brine, and water from melt ponds collected during the SWEDARCTIC 2016 expedition to the Amerasian and Eurasian side of the Lomonosov Ridge. In the water column, concentrations of HgT, MMeHg and DMeHg ranged from 0.089 to 1.5 pM, <25 to 520 fM and from <1.6 to 160 fM, respectively. HgT was enriched in surface waters while MMeHg and DMeHg were low at the surface (i.e. in the polar mixed layer) and enriched at a water depth of around 200–400 m. A 1:2 ratio of DMeHg to MMeHg was observed in the water column suggesting a lower ratio in the central parts of the Arctic Ocean than what has previously been reported from other parts of the Arctic Ocean. At the ice stations, average HgT ranged from 0.97 ± 1.2 pM in the ice cores to 27 ± 17 pM in melt pond waters and average MeHgT (total MeHg) from 28 ± 15 fM in brine to 130 ± 18 fM in melt pond water. The HgT observed in melt ponds and brine was an order of magnitude greater than HgT observed in surface waters and HgT in the upper part of the ice-cores was ~4–8 times higher HgT in comparison to lower layers. Our study suggests that ice may act as a source of HgT to surface waters but not to be a likely source of the methylated Hg forms. Unlike elemental Hg, DMeHg did not enrich in surface waters covered by ice. Concentrations of DMeHg observed in the ice cores and other samples collected from the ice stations were low, suggesting ice to not act as a source of DMeHg to the atmosphere nor to surface waters.