Increased selenium threat as a result of invasion of the exotic bivalve Potamocorbula amurensis into the San Francisco Bay-Delta

Aquatic Toxicology
By: , and 



Following the aggressive invasion of the bivalve, Potamocorbula amurensis, in the San Francisco Bay-Delta in 1986, selenium contamination in the benthic food web increased. Concentrations in this dominant (exotic) bivalve in North Bay were three times higher in 1995–1997 than in earlier studies, and 1990 concentrations in benthic predators (sturgeon and diving ducks) were also higher than in 1986. The contamination was widespread, varied seasonally and was greater in P. amurensis than in co-occurring and transplanted species. Selenium concentrations in the water column of the Bay were enriched relative to the Sacramento River but were not as high as observed in many contaminated aquatic environments. Total Se concentrations in the dissolved phase never exceeded 0.3 μg Se per l in 1995 and 1996; Se concentrations on particulate material ranged from 0.5 to 2.0 μg Se per g dry weight (dw) in the Bay. Nevertheless, concentrations in P. amurensis reached as high as 20 μg Se per g dw in October 1996. The enriched concentrations in bivalves (6–20 μg Se per g dw) were widespread throughout North San Francisco Bay in October 1995 and October 1996. Concentrations varied seasonally from 5 to 20 μg Se per g dw, and were highest during the periods of lowest river inflows and lowest after extended high river inflows. Transplanted bivalves (oysters, mussels or clams) were not effective indicators of either the degree of Se contamination in P. amurensis or the seasonal increases in contamination in the resident benthos. Se is a potent environmental toxin that threatens higher trophic level species because of its reproductive toxicity and efficient food web transfer. Bivalves concentrate selenium effectively because they bioaccumulate the element strongly and lose it slowly; and they are a direct link in the exposure of predaceous benthivore species. Biological invasions of estuaries are increasing worldwide. Changes in ecological structure and function are well known in response to invasions. This study shows that changes in processes such as cycling and effects of contaminants can accompany such invasions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Increased selenium threat as a result of invasion of the exotic bivalve Potamocorbula amurensis into the San Francisco Bay-Delta
Series title Aquatic Toxicology
DOI 10.1016/S0166-445X(01)00265-X
Volume 57
Issue 1-2
Year Published 2002
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 14 p.
First page 51
Last page 64