Mercury distribution and speciation in floodplain soils and uptake into native earthworms (Diplocardia spp.) Academic Article uri icon


  • Historically as part of its national security mission, the U.S. Department of Energy's Y-12 National Security Facility in Oak Ridge, TN acquired a significant fraction of the world's supply of elemental mercury. During the 1950s and 1960s, a large amount of elemental mercury escaped confinement and is still present in the watershed surrounding the Y-12 facility. Earthworms are key components in natural food chains, providing a food source for many small mammals and important food sources for small birds. The objectives of this study were to investigate the current status of mercury distribution and speciation and determination of mercury bioavailability to native earthworms in floodplain soils of East Fork Poplar Creek (EFPC) after decades of U.S. Department of Energy's remediation. The present study clearly shows that the total mercury in a tested floodplain field of EFPC was significantly below the US Department of Energy target 400mg Hg/kg. The major mercury form in the current floodplain soils of EFPC is mainly the non-cinnabar mercury bound form in soil silicates (4M HNO 3-extractable residual fraction). The results show strong linear relationships between mercury concentrations in native earthworms (both mature and immature groups) and the non-cinnabar mercury form. Native earthworms may be used as a potential mercury ecological bio-indicator (bio-marker) for demonstrating mercury bioavailability and ecotoxicity in the ecosystem. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

author list (cited authors)

  • Han, F. X., Su, Y. i., Shi, Z., Xia, Y., Tian, W., Philips, V., ... Liang, Y.

citation count

  • 22

publication date

  • January 2012