Methylmercury degradation and exposure pathways in streams and wetlands impacted by historical mining

Patrick M. Donovan, Joel D. Blum, Michael Bliss Singer, Mark Marvin-DiPasquale, Martin T. K. Tsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Monomethyl mercury (MMHg) and total mercury (THg) concentrations and Hg stable isotope ratios (δ202Hg and Δ199Hg) were measured in sediment and aquatic organisms from Cache Creek (California Coast Range) and Yolo Bypass (Sacramento Valley). Cache Creek sediment had a large range in THg (87 to 3870 ng/g) and δ202Hg (− 1.69 to − 0.20‰) reflecting the heterogeneity of Hg mining sources in sediment. The δ202Hg of Yolo Bypass wetland sediment suggests a mixture of high and low THg sediment sources. Relationships between %MMHg (the percent ratio of MMHg to THg) and Hg isotope values (δ202Hg and Δ199Hg) in fish and macroinvertebrates were used to identify and estimate the isotopic composition of MMHg. Deviation from linear relationships was found between %MMHg and Hg isotope values, which is indicative of the bioaccumulation of isotopically distinct pools of MMHg. The isotopic composition of pre-photodegraded MMHg (i.e., subtracting fractionation from photochemical reactions) was estimated and contrasting relationships were observed between the estimated δ202Hg of pre-photodegraded MMHg and sediment IHg. Cache Creek had mass dependent fractionation (MDF; δ202Hg) of at least − 0.4‰ whereas Yolo Bypass had MDF of + 0.2 to + 0.5‰. This result supports the hypothesis that Hg isotope fractionation between IHg and MMHg observed in rivers (− MDF) is unique compared to + MDF observed in non-flowing water environments such as wetlands, lakes, and the coastal ocean.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1192-1203
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date24 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2016


  • Mercury stable isotopes
  • Cache Creek
  • Yolo Bypass
  • Sediment
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates


Dive into the research topics of 'Methylmercury degradation and exposure pathways in streams and wetlands impacted by historical mining'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this