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Bioaccumulation and biomagnification of mercury in Lake Murray, Papua New Guinea

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Abstract:

The bioaccumulation of mercury in the food webs incorporating the major piscivorous fish species of Lake Murray, Papua New Guinea, has been characterised. Methylmercury concentrations increased with trophic level and the proportion of total mercury present as methylmercury increased from <1% in plants to 94% in piscivorous fish. Methylmercury bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) were similar to those found in temperate environments, with a typical increase of 1 log unit between planktivore and piscivore trophic levels. The greatest bioaccumulation of methylmercury occurred between seston and the water column (log BAF of 5.36). The bioaccumulation of mercury to levels of regulatory concern by the lake's piscivores was attributable to the biomagnification power of the plankton-based food chain comprising four trophic levels (phytoplankton, zooplankton, planktivore, piscivore) rather than any elevated concentrations of mercury in waters or sediments. The methylmercury concentrations of individual piscivores were positively correlated with both trophic position, as indicated by 15N measurements, and fish size. Stable-isotope measurements were used to identify fish species where dietary changes occurring with age significantly augmented age-related bioaccumulation of mercury.

La bioaccumulation du mercure a été étudiée dans le réseau alimentaire reliant les principales espèces de poissons piscivores du lac Murray en Papouasie-Nouvelle-Guinée. Les concentrations de méthylmercure croissent avec le niveau trophique et le pourcentage du mercure total présent sous la forme méthylée augmente de <1% chez les plantes à 94% chez les poissons piscivores. Les facteurs de bioaccumalation du méthylmercure (BAFs) sont semblables à ceux que l'on retrouve dans les milieux tempérés et il y a typiquement une augmentation d'une unité logarithmique entre les niveaux trophiques planctonophage et piscivore. La bioaccumulation la plus considérable a lieu entre le seston et la colonne d'eau (log BAF de 5,36). La bioaccumulation du mercure à des niveaux inquiétants (d'après les normes actuelles) par les piscivores du lac est causée par le pouvoir de bioamplification de la chaîne alimentaire à base de plancton qui couvre quatre niveaux (phytoplanctonique, zooplanctonique, planctonophage, piscivore) plutôt qu'à une augmentation des concentrations de mercure dans les eaux ou dans les sédiments. Les concentrations de méthylmercure chez les différents piscivores sont en corrélation positive à la fois avec leur position trophique, telle que déterminée par les mesures de 15N, et avec leur taille. Les analyses à l'aide d'isotopes stables ont permis de reconnaître les espèces de poissons chez lesquelles des changements de régime alimentaire au cours de la vie augmentent significativement la bioaccumulation du mercure reliée à l'âge.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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