Methylmercury and methane production potentials in North Carolina Piedmont stream sediments

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Anne E. Hershey, Julia Taylor Morton Distinguished Professor Emerita (Creator)
Martin Tsz-Ki Tsui, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Methylated mercury (MeHg) can be produced by all microbes possessing the genes hgcA and hgcB, which can include sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), iron-reducing bacteria (FeRB), methane-producing archaea (MPA), and other anaerobic microbes. These microbial groups compete for substrates, including hydrogen and acetate. When sulfate is in excess, SRB can outcompete other anaerobic microbes. However, low concentrations of sulfate, which often occur in stream sediments, are thought to reduce the relative importance of SRB. Although SRB are regarded as the primary contributors of MeHg in many aquatic environments, their significance may not be universal, and stream sediments are poorly studied with respect to microbial Hg methylation. We evaluated suppression of methanogenesis by SRB and the potential contributions from SRB, MPA and other MeHg producing microbes (including FeRB) to the production of MeHg in stream sediments from the North Carolina Piedmont region. Lower methanogenesis rates were observed when SRB were not inhibited, however, application of a sulfate-reduction inhibitor stimulated methanogenesis. Greater MeHg production occurred when SRB were active. Other MeHg producing microbes (i.e., FeRB) contributed significantly less MeHg production than SRB. MPA produced MeHg in negligible amounts. Our results suggest that SRB are responsible for the majority of MeHg production and suppress methanogenesis in mid-order stream sediments, similar to other freshwater sediments. Further investigation is needed to evaluate the generality of these findings to streams in other regions, and to determine the mechanisms regulating sulfate and electron acceptor availability and other potential factors governing Hg methylation and methane production in stream sediments.

Additional Information

Biogeochemistry. v137 n1-2 (201801): 181-195
Language: English
Date: 2017
Methanogenesis, Methanogens, Methylmercury, Microbial ecology, Streams, Sulfate-reducing bacteria

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