Mercury levels in pristine and gold mining impacted aquatic ecosystems of Suriname, South America

Ambio. 2012 Dec;41(8):873-82. doi: 10.1007/s13280-012-0299-9. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


Mercury levels in sediment and predatory fish were measured for 53 localities in Suriname. The average mercury level in bottom sediment surpassed the Canadian standard for sediment in most localities, except the coastal plains. Of the predatory fish, 41 % had a mercury level above the European Union standard for human consumption of 0.5 μg g(-1). Highest mercury levels were found in fish from the Brokopondo Reservoir and from the Upper Coppename River. High levels of mercury in fish in pristine areas are explained by atmospheric transportation of mercury with the northeastern trade winds followed by wet deposition. Contrary to gold mining areas, where mercury is bound to drifting sediments, in "pristine" areas the mercury is freely available for bio-accumulation and uptake. Impacts on piscivorous reptiles, birds, and mammals are unknown, but likely to be negative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Gold*
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Mining*
  • Suriname
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Gold
  • Mercury