Degradation of methylmercury and its effects on mercury distribution and cycling in the Florida Everglades

Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Sep 1;44(17):6661-6. doi: 10.1021/es1010434.


Methylmercury (MeHg) is recognized as one of the major water quality concerns in the Florida Everglades. Degradation of MeHg in the water is thought to be one of the most important processes to the cycling of MeHg, but there is a lack of quantitative estimations of its effect on the distribution and cycling of MeHg in this ecosystem. Stable isotope (Me201Hg) addition method was implemented to investigate the degradation of MeHg in the Everglades. By combining these results with the field monitoring data, effects of photodegradation on MeHg distribution and its contribution to MeHg cycling were estimated. The results indicate that degradation of MeHg in Everglades water is mediated by sunlight and that UV-A and UV-B radiations are the principal driver. The spatial pattern of MeHg photodegradation potential (PPD) generally illustrated an increasing trend from north to south in the Everglades, which was opposite to the distribution of MeHg in water column. Correlation analysis shows that MeHg concentration in the water had a significant negative relation to PPD, suggesting that photodegradation could play an important role in controlling the distribution of MeHg in Everglades water. Furthermore, about 31.4% of MeHg input into the water body was removed by photodegradation, indicating its importance in the biogeochemical cycling of MeHg in the Everglades. This percent reduction is much lower than that reported for other ecosystems, which could be caused by the higher concentration of DOC in the Everglades. The relatively slower degradation of MeHg could be one of the main reasons for the high ratio of MeHg to total mercury (THg) in this ecosystem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Florida
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Mercury