Large lake ecosystems support a variety of ecosystem services in surrounding communities, including recreational and commercial fishing. However, many northern temperate fisheries are contaminated by mercury. Annual variation in mercury accumulation in fish has previously been linked to water level (WL) fluctuations, opening the possibility of regulating water levels in a manner that minimizes or reduces mercury contamination in fisheries. Here, we compiled a long-term dataset (1997-2015) of mercury content in young-of-year Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) from six lakes on the border between the U.S. and Canada and examined whether mercury content appeared to be related to several metrics of WL fluctuation (e.g., spring WL rise, annual maximum WL, and year-to-year change in maximum WL). Using simple correlation analysis, several WL metrics appear to be strongly correlated to Yellow Perch mercury content, although the strength of these correlations varies by lake. We also used many WL metrics, water quality measurements, temperature and annual deposition data to build predictive models using partial least squared regression (PLSR) analysis for each lake. These PLSR models showed some variation among lakes, but also supported strong associations between WL fluctuations and annual variation in Yellow Perch mercury content. The study lakes underwent a modest change in WL management in 2000, when winter WL minimums were increased by about 1 m in five of the six study lakes. Using the PLSR models, we estimated how this change in WL management would have affected Yellow Perch mercury content. For four of the study lakes, the change in WL management that occurred in 2000 likely reduced Yellow Perch mercury content, relative to the previous WL management regime.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Mercury and water level fluctuations in lakes of northern Minnesota|
|Publisher||Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory|
|Contributing office(s)||Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center|