Wetlands provide numerous ecosystem services, but also can be sources of methylmercury (MeHg) production and export. Rice agricultural wetlands in particular may be important sites for MeHg bioaccumulation due to their worldwide ubiquity, periodic flooding schedules, and high use by wildlife. We assessed MeHg bioaccumulation within agricultural and perennial wetlands common to California's Central Valley during summer, when the majority of wetland habitats are shallowly flooded rice fields. We introduced caged western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) within white rice (Oryza sativa), wild rice (Zizania palustris), and permanent wetlands at water inlets, centers, and outlets. Total mercury (THg) concentrations and body burdens in caged mosquitofish increased rapidly, exceeding baseline values at introduction by 135% to 1197% and 29% to 1566% among sites, respectively, after only 60 days. Mercury bioaccumulation in caged mosquitofish was greater in rice fields than in permanent wetlands, with THg concentrations at wetland outlets increasing by 12.1, 5.8, and 2.9 times over initial concentrations in white rice, wild rice, and permanent wetlands, respectively. In fact, mosquitofish caged at white rice outlets accumulated 721 ng Hg/fish in just 60 days. Mercury in wild mosquito fish and Mississippi silversides (Menidia audens) concurrently sampled at wetland outlets also were greater in white rice and wild rice than permanent wetlands. Within wetlands, THg concentrations and body burdens of both caged and wild fish increased from water inlets to outlets in white rice fields, and tended to not vary among sites in permanent wetlands. Fish THg concentrations in agricultural wetlands were high, exceeding 0.2 ??g/g ww in 82% of caged fish and 59% of wild fish. Our results indicate that shallowly flooded rice fields are potential hotspots for MeHg bioaccumulation and, due to their global prevalence, suggest that agricultural wetlands may be important contributors to MeHg contamination.
Additional publication details
Agricultural wetlands as potential hotspots for mercury bioaccumulation: Experimental evidence using caged fish