Sulfide and iron control on mercury speciation in anoxic estuarine sediment slurries

Seunghee Han, Anna Obraztsova, Patrizia Pretto, Dimitri D. Deheyn, Joris Gieskes, Bradley M. Tebo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


In order to understand the role of sulfate and Fe(III) reduction processes in the net production of monomethylmercury (MMHg), we amended anoxic sediment slurries collected from the Venice Lagoon, Italy, with inorganic Hg and either potential electron acceptors or metabolic byproducts of sulfate and Fe(III) reduction processes, gradually changing their concentrations. Addition of sulfide (final concentration: 0.2-6.3 mM) resulted in an exponential decrease in the sulfate reduction rate and MMHg concentration with increasing concentrations of sulfide. Based on this result, we argue that the concentration of dissolved sulfide is a critical factor controlling the sulfate reduction rate, and in turn, the net MMHg production at steady state. Addition of either Fe(II) (added concentration: 0-6.1 mM) or Fe(III) (added concentration: 0-3.5 mM) resulted in similar trends in the MMHg concentration, an increase with low levels of Fe additions and a subsequent decrease with high levels of Fe additions. The limited availability of dissolved Hg, associated with sulfide removal by precipitation of FeS, appears to inhibit the net MMHg production in high levels of Fe additions. There was a noticeable reduction in the net MMHg production in Fe(III)-amended slurries as compared to Fe(II)-amended ones, which could be caused by a decrease in the sulfate reduction rate. This agrees with the results of Hg methylation assays using the enrichment cultures of anaerobic bacteria: whereas the enrichment cultures of sulfate reducers showed significant production of MMHg (4.6% of amended Hg), those of Fe(III), Mn(IV), and nitrate reducers showed no production of MMHg. It appears that enhanced Fe(III)-reduction activities suppress the formation of MMHg in high sulfate estuarine sediments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Chemistry
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Sep 16 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Italy, Venice Lagoon
  • Mercury
  • Methyl mercury
  • Sediments
  • Sulfate reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental Chemistry


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