Eight boreal wetlands as sources and sinks for methyl mercury in relation to soil acidity, C/N ratio, and small-scale flooding.
Four years of catchment export and wetland input-output mass balances are reported for inorganic Hg (Hg(inorg)), methyl mercury (MeHg), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and sulfate in eight Swedish boreal wetlands. All wetlands had a history of artificial drainage and seven were subjected to small-scale flooding during the complete study period (two sites) or the two last years (five sites). We used an approach in which specific runoff data determined at hydrological stations situated at a distance from the studied sites were used in the calculation of water and element budgets. All wetlands except one were significant sinks for Hg(inorg). Seven wetlands were consistent sources of MeHg and one (an Alnus glutinosa swamp) was a significant sink. The pattern of MeHg yields was in good agreement with previously determined methylation and demethylation rates in the wetland soils of this study, with a maximum MeHg yield obtained in wetlands with an intermediate soil acidity (pH ∼5.0) and C/N ratio (∼20). We hypothesize that an increased nutrient status from poor to intermediate conditions promotes methylation over demethylation, whereas a further increase in nutrient status and trophy to meso- and eutrophic conditions promotes demethylation over methylation. Small-scale flooding showed no or moderate changes in MeHg yield, maintaining differences among wetlands related to nutrient status.