Optical Properties of Dissolved Organic Matter and Their Relation to Mercury Concentrations in Water and Biota Across a Remote Freshwater Drainage Basin


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) includes an array of carbon-based compounds that vary in size and structure and have complex interactions with mercury (Hg) cycling in aquatic systems. While many studies have examined the relationship between dissolved organic carbon concentrations ([DOC]) and methyl Hg bioaccumulation, few studies have considered the effects of DOM composition (e.g., protein-content, aromaticity). The goal of this study was to explore the relationships between total and methyl [Hg] in water, invertebrates, and fish and optically derived measures of DOM composition from 47 lake and river sites across a boreal watershed. Results showed higher aqueous total [Hg] in systems with more aromatic DOM and higher [DOC], potentially due to enhanced transport from upstream or riparian areas. Methyl [Hg] in biota were all positively related to the amount of microbial-based DOM and, in some …

Environmental science & technology
Erik Emilson
Erik Emilson
Research Scientist, Watershed Ecology Team Lead, Associate Editor CJFR

I am interested in how forests support freshwater ecosystem services. My research combines microbial and molecular approaches to undertand how forest productivity and disturbances affect ecosystem functions in headwater streams and lakes.