Mercury in the Mackenzie River delta and estuary: Concentrations and fluxes during open-water conditions

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Authors: Graydon, JA; Emmerton, CA; Lesack, LFW; Kelly, EN
Year: 2009
Journal: Science of the Total Environment 407: 2980-2988   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Mercury in the Mackenzie River delta and estuary: Concentrations and fluxes during open-water conditions
Abstract: Estimates of mercury (Hg) loadings to the Arctic Ocean from circumpolar rivers have not considered biogeochemical changes that occur when river water is temporarily stored in large deltas (delta effect). There are also few data describing Hg changes across the freshwater-saltwater transition zone (FSTZ) of these rivers. We assessed temporal changes in unfiltered total mercury (THg) and methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations during open-water 2004 in the Mackenzie River upstream of the Mackenzie River delta, and in 6 floodplain lakes across an elevation gradient. These data were used to calculate Hg fluxes from the Mackenzie River and to evaluate a delta effect on Hg using an estimate of delta river water storage and a mixing analysis. Mean THg concentrations were highest in river water (9.17 +/- 5.51 ng/L) and decreased up the lake elevation gradient. Mean MeHg concentrations were highest in lakes periodically connected to the river (0.213 +/- 0.122 ng/L) and MeHg concentrations in elevated lakes showed a mid-summer peak. Results from the mixing analysis showed that the delta effect may be large enough to affect Hg loadings to the Arctic Ocean. THg concentrations exiting the delta (10.2 ng/L) were 16% lower than those entering (12.1 ng/L), whereas MeHg showed little change. We calculated 2.5-month (open-water) THg and MeHg fluxes from the Mackenzie River of 1208 and 8.4 kg. These fluxes are similar in magnitude to previous annual estimates in the arctic literature suggesting that previously published annual Hg fluxes from the Mackenzie River may be large underestimates. We also assessed changes in Mackenzie River water THg and MeHg concentrations as it crossed the FSTZ during an open-water cruise. THg decreased non-conservatively across the estuary from 3.8-0.6 ng/L, possibly due to mixing and particle settling. MeHg concentrations were variable and near detection. Our results show that the Mackenzie River estuary is a dynamic environment and may have important controls on Hg delivered to the Arctic Ocean. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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