Influence of Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria and Spartina alterniflora on Mercury Methylation in Simulated Salt Marsh Systems
Fu (Hui), Theresa T.
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The interactions of sulfate-reducing bacteria and Spartina alterniflora marsh grass have been established using a simulated salt marsh system and these interactions have been quantified using geochemical and molecular tools. Plant activities have a direct influence on mercury methylators and therefore control mercury transformation in the environment. Biogeochemical data show that sulfate and sulfide profiles change seasonally due to plant growth and senescence. Spartina alterniflora impact the two drivers for sulfate and sulfide transformation. The community of sulfate-reducing bacteria serve as the anaerobic driver and transform sulfate to sulfide (sulfate reduction). Sulfate-reducing bacteria have been identified as the principal methylators of mercury (Andersson, et al., 1990; Compeau and Bartha, 1985; Compeau and Bartha, 1984; Blum and Bartha, 1980; Gilmour and Capone). The aerobic driver is dissolved oxygen present in both porewater and plant root exudates, which transform sulfide back to sulfate (sulfide oxidation). Sulfate is not limiting in the vegetated sediment, even at the lower depths. Therefore, although sulfate reduction rates were high when plant activity was high, oxidative processes were also significant in the upper 4-cm of the sediment. In addition, demethylation of methylmercury to ionic Hg(II) in the porewater can occur through oxidative processes (Oremland et al., 1991). Therefore, the significance of sulfide oxidation may have strong implications for methylmercury demethylation in our marsh system.