Legacy source of mercury in an urban stream-wetland ecosystem in central North Carolina, USA.

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2015-11

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Abstract

In the United States, aquatic mercury contamination originates from point and non-point sources to watersheds. Here, we studied the contribution of mercury in urban runoff derived from historically contaminated soils and the subsequent production of methylmercury in a stream-wetland complex (Durham, North Carolina), the receiving water of this runoff. Our results demonstrated that the mercury originated from the leachate of grass-covered athletic fields. A fraction of mercury in this soil existed as phenylmercury, suggesting that mercurial anti-fungal compounds were historically applied to this soil. Further downstream in the anaerobic sediments of the stream-wetland complex, a fraction (up to 9%) of mercury was converted to methylmercury, the bioaccumulative form of the metal. Importantly, the concentrations of total mercury and methylmercury were reduced to background levels within the stream-wetland complex. Overall, this work provides an example of a legacy source of mercury that should be considered in urban watershed models and watershed management.

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10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.12.038

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Deonarine, Amrika, Heileen Hsu-Kim, Tong Zhang, Yong Cai and Curtis J Richardson (2015). Legacy source of mercury in an urban stream-wetland ecosystem in central North Carolina, USA. Chemosphere, 138. pp. 960–965. 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2014.12.038 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15706.

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Scholars@Duke

Hsu-Kim

Heileen Hsu-Kim

Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor Heileen (Helen) Hsu-Kim is an environmental engineer who specializes in environmental aquatic chemistry and geochemistry. Her research tackles problems related to pollutant metals and the biogeochemical processes that alter their distribution in water, soil, and air. The applications of this work include environmental remediation technologies, the impacts of energy production on water resources, global environmental health, and the environmental implications and applications of nanotechnology.

Dr. Hsu-Kim's current research projects are focused on mercury biogeochemistry, the impacts of coal ash disposal on water quality, recovering valuable materials from geological wastes, and health impacts of trace metal/metalloid exposures. A central theme to her work is the utilization of chemical speciation for understanding and predicting the persistence, mobility and bioavailability of metals and minerals in the aquatic environment.

The methodologies her group employs for this research include laboratory techniques for quantifying trace element speciation, functional measures of reactivity and bioavailability of contaminant metals, and techniques to probe interactions at mineral, water and microbial interfaces.

Richardson

Curtis J. Richardson

Research Professor of Resource Ecology in the Division of Environmental Science and Policy

Curtis J. Richardson is Professor of Resource Ecology and founding Director of the Duke University Wetland Center in the Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Richardson earned his degrees from the State University of New York and the University of Tennessee.

His research interests in applied ecology focus on long-term ecosystem response to large-scale perturbations such as climate change, toxic materials, trace metals, flooding, or nutrient additions. He has specific interests in phosphorus nutrient dynamics in wetlands and the effects of environmental stress on plant communities and ecosystem functions and services. The objectives of his research are to utilize ecological principles to develop new approaches to environmental problem solving. The goal of his research is to provide predictive models and approaches to aid in the management of ecosystems.

Recent research activities: 1) wetland restoration of plant communities and its effects on regional water quality and nutrient biogeochemical cycles, 2) the development of ecosystem metrics as indices of wetland restoration success, 3) the effects of nanomaterial on wetland and stream ecosystem processes, 4) the development of ecological thresholds along environmental gradients, 5) wetland development trends and restoration in coastal southeastern United States, 6) the development of an outdoor wetland and stream research and teaching laboratory on Duke Forest, 7) differential nutrient limitation (DNL) as a mechanism to overcome N or P limitations across trophic levels in wetland ecosystems, and 8) carbon sequestration in coastal North Carolina pocosins.

Richardson oversees the main analytical lab in NSOE, which is open to students and faculty. Dr. Richardson has been listed in Who's Who in Science™ annually since 1989 and was elected President of the Society of Wetland Scientists in 1987-88. He has served on many editorial review committees for peer-reviewed scientific journals, and he is a past Chair of the Nicholas School Division of Environmental Sciences and Policy. Dr. Richardson is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Wetland Scientists, and the Soil Science Society of America.


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