Methylmercury (MeHg) levels in dragonfly larvae and water were measured over two years in aquatic systems impacted to varying degrees by sulfate releases related to iron mining activity. This study examined the impact of elevated sulfate loads on MeHg concentrations and tested the use of MeHg in dragonfly larvae as an indicator of MeHg levels in a range of aquatic systems including 16 river/stream sites and two lakes. MeHg concentrations in aeshnid dragonfly larvae were positively correlated (R2 = 0.46, p < 0.01) to peak MeHg concentrations in the dissolved phase for the combined years of 2012 and 2013. This relation was strong in 2012 (R2 = 0.85, p < 0.01), but showed no correlation in 2013 (R2 = 0.02, p > 0.05). MeHg in dragonfly larvae were not elevated at the highest sulfate sites, but rather the reverse was generally observed. Record rainfall events in 2012 and above average rainfall in 2013 likely delivered the majority of Hg and MeHg to these systems via interflow and activated groundwater flow through reduced sediments. As a result, the impacts of elevated sulfate releases due to mining activities were not apparent in these systems where little of the sulfate is reduced. Lower bioaccumulation factors for MeHg in aeshnid dragonfly larvae were observed with increasing dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations. This finding is consistent with previous studies showing that MeHg in high DOC systems is less bioavailable; an equilibrium model shows that more MeHg being associated with DOC rather than algae at the base of the food chain readily explains the lower bioaccumulation factors.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Aeshnid dragonfly larvae as bioindicators of methylmercury contamination in aquatic systems impacted by elevated sulfate loading|
|Contributing office(s)||National Research Program - Central Branch|