Decrease in net mercury methylation rates following iron amendment to anoxic wetland sediment slurries

Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Apr 15;39(8):2564-70. doi: 10.1021/es049096d.


The rate of mercury methylation in anoxic wetland sediments is affected by the concentration of bioavailable complexes between Hg and sulfide. Previous research with pure bacterial cultures has shown that addition of ferrous iron reduces the net rate of mercury methylation by decreasing the concentration of dissolved sulfide. To assess the possibility of using this approach to decrease net mercury methylation in restored and constructed wetlands, laboratory experiments were conducted by adding Hg(II) and Fe(II) to sediments collected from six sites in five estuarine wetlands. Addition of 30 mM (0.07 mmol g(-1) or 3.9 mg g(-1)) Fe(II) decreased net mercury methylation relative to that of unamended controls by a factor of 2.1-6.6. In all cases, the observed decrease in net mercury methylation was accompanied by a decrease in the concentrations of sulfide and filterable mercury in the water overlying the sediments. When iron was added to one of the sediment samples at doses that were small relative to the concentration of sulfide present, net mercury methylation either increased slightly or was unaffected. Comparison of the results to speciation model predictions suggests that dissolved reduced sulfur-containing species play a role in the formation of uncharged, bioavailable Hg complexes. Although further research is needed to determine the long-term effect of iron amendment, these results suggest that iron addition decreases mercury methylation in authentic wetland sediments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobiosis
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Biological Availability
  • Culture Media
  • Filtration
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Geologic Sediments / microbiology*
  • Iron / chemistry*
  • Mercury / chemistry
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Methylation
  • Methylmercury Compounds / chemistry
  • Methylmercury Compounds / metabolism*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Sulfides / chemistry
  • Sulfides / metabolism
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Culture Media
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Sulfides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Iron
  • Mercury