High mercury accumulation in deep-ocean hadal sediments

Hamed Sanei, Peter M. Outridge*, Kazumasa Oguri, Gary A. Stern, Bo Thamdrup, Frank Wenzhöfer, Feiyue Wang, Ronnie N. Glud

*Corresponding author for this work

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Ocean sediments are the largest sink for mercury (Hg) sequestration and hence an important part of the global Hg cycle1. Yet accepted global average Hg flux data for deep-ocean sediments (> 200 m depth) are not based on measurements on sediments but are inferred from sinking particulates2. Mercury fluxes have never been reported from the deepest zone, the hadal (> 6 km depth). Here we report the first measurements of Hg fluxes from two hadal trenches (Atacama and Kermadec) and adjacent abyssal areas (2–6 km). Mercury concentrations of up to 400 ng g−1 were the highest recorded in marine sediments remote from anthropogenic or hydrothermal sources. The two trench systems differed significantly in Hg concentrations and fluxes, but hadal and abyssal areas within each system did not. The relatively low recent mean flux at Kermadec was 6–15 times higher than the inferred deep-ocean average1,3, while the median flux across all cores was 22–56 times higher. Thus, some hadal and abyssal sediments are Hg accumulation hot-spots. The hadal zone comprises only ~ 1% of the deep-ocean area, yet a preliminary estimate based on sediment Hg and particulate organic carbon (POC) fluxes suggests total hadal Hg accumulation may be 12–30% of the estimate for the entire deep-ocean. The few abyssal data show equally high Hg fluxes near trench systems. These results highlight a need for further research into deep-ocean Hg fluxes to better constrain global Hg models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10970
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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