Identificación de fases portadoras y flujos de mercurio en el registro sedimentario de la Laguna del Plata, región central de Argentina

  • Yohana Vanesa Stupar
  • María Gabriela García
  • Jörg Schäfer
  • Sabine Schmidt
  • Eduardo Piovano
  • Gérard Blanc
  • Frédéric Huneau
  • Phillipe Le Coustumer
Keywords: geogenic mercury, volcanic ash, climate change, selective extractions, Laguna del Plata, Argentina


In this work the variations in the concentrations of mercury, the carrying phases and fluxes in the last ~80 years are anal yzed for the sedimentary record of the Laguna del Plata. Chemical, mineralogical and sedimentological analysis were performed, as well as radiometric dating, of a 120 cm sediment core extracted from Laguna del Plata and sediments collected from the riverbed along the Suquía river basin that discharges into the mentioned lake. Total mercury (HgT) was determined by cold vapour atomic absorption spectrometry after incineration and amalgamation, using a direct mercury analyzer. The results suggest that variations in Hg levels respond mainly to hydrological changes registered in the system in the last ~80 years. During the dry period that affected the region before 1968, the main Hg sources were the sediments transported from the upper Suquía river watershed. Constant Hg concentrations measured at the base of the sedimentary core are similar to those measured in the sediments of the basin, which supports the hypothesis of a contribution from terrigenous Hg. The main Hg-bearing phase determined in these sediments is pyrite and, to a lesser extent, particulate organic matter. The rise in the regional precipitation from 1972 to 2003 coincides with an increase in HgT concentrations, probably associated to an increased sediment transport from the upper part of the basin and to higher atmospheric Hg input from precipitation. In that period, Hg probably reached the lake adsorbed into pyrite and Fe and Mn-(hydr) oxides present in the riverbed sediments. Once in the lake, subsequent remobilization and transport through various biogeochemical processes would have occurred, which explains its association with organic matter in sediments accumulated in that period. The peak of Hg concentrations registered in sediments accumulated between 1990 and 1995 is attributed to the contribution from volcanic ash that reached the region after the eruption of the Lascar volcano in 1993. Finally, in the most recent sediments (accumulated since 2003) the steady increase in Hg concentrations is attributed to the mentioned geogenic sources, but also to the increase of global atmospheric Hg fluxes.