Mercury bioaccumulation and biomagnification in Ozark stream ecosystems

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
By: , and 



Crayfish (Orconectes spp.), Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea), northern hog sucker (hog sucker; Hypentelium nigricans), and smallmouth bass (smallmouth; Micropterus dolomieu) from streams in southeastern Missouri (USA) were analyzed for total mercury (HgT) and for stable isotopes of carbon (δ13C), nitrogen (δ15N), and sulfur (δ34S) to discern Hg transfer pathways. HgT concentrations were generally lowest in crayfish (0.005–0.112 μg/g dw) and highest in smallmouth (0.093–4.041 μg/g dw), as was δ15N. HgT was also lower and δ15N was higher in all biota from a stream draining a more heavily populated historical lead–zinc mining area than from similar sites with mostly undeveloped forested watersheds. δ13C in biota was lowest at spring-influenced sites, reflecting CO2 inputs and temperature influences, and δ34S increased from south to north in all taxa. However, HgT was not strongly correlated with either δ13C or δ34S in biota. Trophic position (TP) computed from crayfish δ15N was lower in hog suckers (mean=2.8) than in smallmouth (mean=3.2), but not at all sites. HgT, δ13C, δ34S, and TP in hog suckers increased with total length (length) at some sites, indicating site-specific ontogenetic diet shifts. Changes with length were less evident in smallmouth. Length-adjusted HgT site means in both species were strongly correlated with HgT in crayfish (r2=0.97, P<0.01), but not with HgT in Corbicula (r2=0.02, P>0.05). ANCOVA and regression models incorporating only TP and, for hog suckers, length, accurately and precisely predicted HgT concentrations in both fish species from all locations. Although low compared to many areas of the USA, HgT (and therefore methylmercury) concentrations in smallmouth and hog suckers are sufficiently high to represent a threat to human health and wildlife. Our data indicate that in Ozark streams, Hg concentrations in crayfish are at least partly determined by their diet, with concentrations in hog suckers, smallmouth, and possibly other higher-level consumers largely determined by concentrations in crayfish and other primary and secondary consumers, fish growth rates, and TP.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mercury bioaccumulation and biomagnification in Ozark stream ecosystems
Series title Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
DOI 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2011.08.008
Volume 74
Issue 8
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center, Contaminant Biology Program
Description 10 p.
First page 2215
Last page 2224
Country United States
State Missouri
Other Geospatial Ozark Mountains
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