Recent models of global mercury (Hg) cycling have identified the downward flux of sinking particles in the ocean as a prominent Hg removal process from the ocean. At least one of these models estimates the amount of anthropogenic Hg in the ocean to be about 400 Mmol, with deep water formation and sinking fluxes representing the largest vectors by which pollutant Hg is able to penetrate the ocean interior. Using data from recent cruises to the Atlantic, we examined the dissolved and particulate partitioning of Hg in the oceanic water column as a cross-check on the hypothesis that sinking particle fluxes are important. Interestingly, these new data suggest particle-dissolved partitioning (Kd) that is approximately 20× greater than previous estimates, which thereby challenges certain assumptions about the scavenging and active partitioning of Hg in the ocean used in earlier models. For example, the new particle data suggest that regenerative scavenging is the most likely mechanism by which the association of Hg and particles occurs.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
One contribution of 20 to a discussion meeting issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
- Accepted July 20, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.