Methylmercury (MeHg) is a neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor that bioaccumulates and biomagnifies through trophic levels, resulting in potentially hazardous concentrations. Although wetlands are known hotspots for mercury (Hg) methylation, the effects of avian biovectors on these processes are poorly understood. We examined Hg speciation and distribution in shallow groundwater and surface water from a raised-bog with over 30years of avian biovector (herring gulls Larus argentatus and great black-backed gulls Larus marinus) colonization and guano input. Compared to the reference site, the avian-impacted bog had elevated concentrations of total dissolved organic carbon (TOC), total Hg, MeHg, phosphate (PO43-), and other trace metals, notably Pb, As, Cd and Ni. Spatial interpolation showed that the densest area of gull nesting was co-located with areas that had the highest concentrations of PO43-, MeHg, As and Cd, but not total mercury (THg), and models suggested that Mn, PO43-, and dissolved TOC were strong predictors of MeHg. Our findings suggest that while these gulls may not be a significant source of Hg, the excess of PO43- (a well recognised component of guano) and the subsequent changes in water chemistry due to avian biovector subsidies may increase net Hg methylation.
Keywords: Avian; Biovector; Bog; Mercury; Phosphate; Wetland.
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