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Identification of the biotic and abiotic matrices in Ecosystems in which the transformation of inorganic mercury to methyl mercury and of methyl mercury to other mercury species occurs

Objective

The objectives are: to identify the biotic and abiotic matrices in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems in which the transformation of inorganic mercury to methylmercury and of methylmercury to other mercury species occur; to quantify these chemical, physical, and biological transformation processes; to determine the pathways of methylmercury in various ecosystems; and to elaborate environmental quality criteria for methylmercury.

In a comparative approach, methylmercury and other inorganic and organic mercury species will be identified and quantified in key components of typical foodchains of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems situated in different geographical areas of Europe which are either not exposed (background) or are exposed to atmospheric, industrial and/or natural mercury sources. Air, rain, surface water, sediments and biota from the Swedish lake area, industrial and remote sites in Germany, North Sea coast, Elbe and Weser estuaries, La Spezia area, the Gulf of Genoa and the Mount Amiata region will be compared to evaluate the relative importance of methylmercury pollution.

In an experimental approach, information from the comparative approach will be used to investigate methylation and demethylation processes of mercury in 2 and higher compartment systems, applying in laboratory and in situ experiments stable isotope (mercury-199) and radioisotope (mercury-197 and mercury-203) techniques. These experiments also intend to differentiate between biotic and abiotic methylation processes under natural conditions.

Improvement of the sensitivity of existing analytical techniques for the determination of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in environmental matrices at ultra low concentrations (picogram level) will be attempted.

In a simulation approach the data generated in the comparative and experimental approaches will be used as inputs to conceptual and mathematical models to predict the distribution and fluxes of inorganic mercury and methylmercury in typical food chains, with particular emphasis on the fate of atmospheric mercury loads. The modelling results will lay the basis for recommending environmental quality criteria for methylmercury.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie l'Energia e l'Ambiente (ENEA)
Address
Pozzuolo Di Lerici
19100 La Spezia
Italy

Participants (4)

FORSCHUNGSZENTRUM JUELICH GMBH
Germany
Address
Wilhelm Johnen Strasse
52425 Juelich
SWEDISH ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE LTD-IVL SVENSKA MILJOININSTITUTET AB
Sweden
Address
43,Valhallavagen 81
11427 Stockholm
Università degli Studi di Genova
Italy
Address
Via Brigata Salerno Ponte
16147 Genova
Università degli Studi di Siena
Italy
Address
Via P. A. Mattioli 4
53100 Siena