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Role of Ester Sulfate and Organic Disulfide in Mercury Methylation in Peatland Soils...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Environmental Science & Technology
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 12

We examined the composition and spatial correlation of sulfur and mercury pools in peatland soil profiles by measuring sulfur speciation by 1s X-ray absorption near-edge structure spectrocopy and mercury concentrations by cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy. Also investigated were the methylation/demethylation rate constants and the presence of hgcAB genes with depth. Methylmercury (MeHg) concentration and organic disulfide were spatially correlated and had a significant positive correlation (p < 0.05). This finding is consistent with these species being products of dissimilatory sulfate reduction. Conversely, a significant negative correlation between organic monosulfides and MeHg was observed, which is consistent with a reduction in Hg(II) bioavailability via complexation reactions. Finally, a significant positive correlation between ester sulfate and instantaneous methylation rate constants was observed, which is consistent with ester sulfate being a substrate for mercury methylation via dissimilatory sulfate reduction. Our findings point to the importance of organic sulfur species in mercury methylation processes, as substrates and products, as well as potential inhibitors of Hg(II) bioavailability. For a peatland system with sub-μmol L–1 porewater concentrations of sulfate and hydrogen sulfide, our findings indicate that the solid-phase sulfur pools, which have a much larger sulfur concentration range, may be accessible to microbial activity or exchanging with the porewater.