Mercury and selenium concentrations in fishes of the Upper Colorado River Basin, southwestern United States: A retrospective assessment

PLoS ONE
By: , and 

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Abstract

Mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) are contaminants of concern for fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB). We explored Hg and Se in fish tissues (2,324 individuals) collected over 50 years (1962–2011) from the UCRB. Samples include native and non-native fish collected from lotic waterbodies spanning 7 major tributaries to the Colorado River. There was little variation of total mercury (THg) in fish assemblages basin-wide and only 13% (272/1959) of individual fish samples exceeded the fish health benchmark (0.27 μg THg/g ww). Most THg exceedances were observed in the White-Yampa tributary whereas the San Juan had the lowest mean THg concentration. Risks associated with THg are species specific with exceedances dominated by Colorado Pikeminnow (mean = 0.38 and standard error ± 0.08 μg THg/g ww) and Roundtail Chub (0.24 ± 0.06 μg THg/g ww). For Se, 48% (827/1720) of all individuals exceeded the fish health benchmark (5.1 μg Se/g dw). The Gunnison river had the most individual exceedances of the Se benchmark (74%) whereas the Dirty Devil had the fewest. We identified that species of management concern accumulate THg and Se to levels above risk thresholds and that fishes of the White-Yampa (THg) and Gunnison (Se) rivers are at the greatest risk in the UCRB.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mercury and selenium concentrations in fishes of the Upper Colorado River Basin, southwestern United States: A retrospective assessment
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0226824
Volume 15
Issue 1
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher PLOS
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description e0226824
Country United States
Other Geospatial Upper Colorado River Basin
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