Chapter

Mercury in the Marine Environment

Frank J. Black, Christopher H. Conaway and A. Russell Flegal

in Mercury in the Environment

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780520271630
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520951396 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520271630.003.0010
Mercury in the Marine Environment

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The study of mercury in marine ecosystems is necessary to understand and minimize the chronic, sublethal toxicity due to exposure to organomercury in the marine environment and resources. The combination of the complex biogeochemical cycling of mercury with complex marine ecological processes make this study challenging, requiring a multitude of scientific approaches to answer questions about mercury in marine ecosystems. Some questions relate to fish consumption, most obviously: “which fish are the healthiest to eat?” and “is there a limit to how much is healthy?” Other questions relate to the source of mercury in the marine environment and the degree to which the mercury found in fish is from anthropogenic versus natural sources. These questions are related to our ability to mitigate mercury contamination in the marine environment and potential increases in mercury concentrations in fish. We also must understand how long-term and large-scale trends in marine ecosystems affect the biogeochemical cycling of mercury. We discuss some of these questions and summarize information on mercury in marine ecosystems, including the sources of mercury in marine environments, the transformation and methylation of mercury, its uptake into biological systems, and its biomagnification in marine food webs. The primary sources and sinks for methylmercury in the ocean are discussed, and a preliminary mass balance for monomethylmercury in the oceans is presented.

Keywords: methylmercury; ocean; marine environment; coastal waters; biogeochemical cycling; bioaccumulation; biomagnification; mass balance; sources; sinks; methylation; sediment; organisms; fish

Chapter.  40886 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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