Mercury in Sediment Cores from the Southern Gulf of Mexico: Preindustrial Levels and Temporal Enrichment Trends

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Mercury enrichment and fluxes, Land use change, Soil erosion, Oil industry, Gulf of Mexico large marine ecosystem

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Spatial and temporal variability of mercury concentrations in sediments was evaluated in 210Pb-dated sediment cores from offshore and intertidal areas in the southern Gulf of Mexico. In offshore cores, mercury concentrations were comparable (11.2–69.2 ng g−1), and intermediate between concentrations in intertidal cores from the eastern (6.0–34.4 ng g−1) and the western (34.9–137.7 ng g−1) inlets of Términos Lagoon. The enrichment factor (EF) indicated minimal contamination (EF  <  2) in most offshore cores, whereas in some intertidal cores steadily increasing mercury enrichment and fluxes were observed along the past century. No evidence of oil industry related mercury contamination was found, as the minor but increasing enrichment in intertidal cores is most likely related to land-derived sources such as catchment eroded soils and waste water runoff. Results highlight the importance to control catchment erosion and untreated sewage releases to reduce mercury loadings to the coastal zone.

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Marine Pollution Bulletin, v. 49, art. 110498