Total and methyl mercury distribution in water, sediment, plankton and fish along the Tapajós River basin in the Brazilian Amazon.
Chemosphere. 2019 Jun 29 ;235:690-700. Epub 2019 Jun 29. PMID: 31279119
A S Lino
Mercury (Hg) is known as one of the major contaminants in the Amazon. The Tapajós River basin, in the Brazilian Amazon, has diverse anthropogenic activities which increase Hg concentrations in the aquatic ecosystem. Moreover, high concentrations of Hg are naturally found in this basin. Distribution of total (THg) and methyl (MeHg) mercury were assessed in unfiltered water (n = 47), suspended particulate matter (SPM, n = 30), superficial sediment (BS, n = 29), plankton (n = 28) and fishes (n = 129) from the Tapajós River basin. Suspended particles were the main carrier of Hg in the water column and sediment. Increased erosion, prompted by anthropic activities, led to higher Hg concentrations in water from the most impacted areas. Hg is transported mainly in particulate matter; thus, anthropic disturbances influence Hg concentrations downstream. Limnological parameters such as organic matter content influenced MeHg concentrations in water, plankton and sediment of the Tapajós basin. Hg methylation in total plankton was more efficient in lakes (13-66%) than in Tapajós River main channel (2-14%). Biotic and abiotic factors interact in a complex way in the aquatic ecosystem, making Hg concentrations to vary in food web. Gold mining and deforestation probably increase Hg levels in the Tapajós basin. Thus, in addition to Hg monitoring, prevention and remediation efforts should be focused on soil and sediment erosion control.