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Diatom ooze—A large marine mercury sink

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Science  26 Jul 2018:
eaat2735
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2735

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Abstract

The role of algae for sequestration of atmospheric mercury in the ocean is largely unknown due to the lack of marine sediment data. We estimated Holocene global mercury accumulation in biogenic siliceous sediments (diatom ooze) based on high resolution cores from marine Antarctica. Diatom ooze exhibits the highest mercury accumulation rates ever reported for the marine environment and provided a large sink of anthropogenic mercury, surpassing existing model estimates up to seven fold. Anthropogenic pollution of the Southern Ocean began ~150 years ago and up to 20% of anthropogenic mercury emitted to the atmosphere may have been stored in diatom ooze. These findings reveal the crucial role of diatoms as a fast vector for mercury sequestration and diatom ooze as a large marine mercury sink.

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