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Predicting mercury levels in yellow perch: use of water chemistry, trophic ecology, and spatial traits

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Recent research suggests that wetland abundance surrounding lakes, fish trophic position, and fish community composition may influence the bioavailability of mercury (Hg) to fish. To compare the importance of these spatial and biological factors to chemical factors known to influence bioavailability, we determined the relationship between 24 lake traits and Hg concentrations in yellow perch (Perca flavescens; whole fish samples) for 43 northern Wisconsin lakes. Independent variables included biological traits such as fish trophic position and body condition, spatial traits such as lake hydrologic position and surrounding wetland abundance, and chemical traits such as pH and water color. The strongest predictor of fish Hg levels was pH (R2 = 0.42; p < 0.002). Of the biological traits measured, yellow perch body condition explained significant additional variation (final R2 = 0.54; p = 0.024). Trophic position explained limited variability and population abundance of planktivores and piscivores were not correlated to perch Hg levels. Regression tree models indicated that small lakes with greater than 6% wetland in their watershed have moderately elevated fish Hg levels. Our results indicate that within-lake chemistry and fish growth patterns are stronger correlates of Hg levels in yellow perch than spatial traits, trophic position, or fish community attributes.

Des travaux récents laissent croire que l'abondance des terres humides autour d'un lac, la position trophique des poissons et la composition de la communauté ichtyenne peuvent affecter la biodisponibilité du mercure aux poissons. Afin de comparer l'importance de ces facteurs spatiaux et biologiques avec celle des facteurs chimiques connus pour leur influence sur la biodisponibilité, nous avons déterminé la relation entre 24 caractéristiques de 43 lacs du nord du Wisconsin et les concentrations de mercure chez la Perchaude (Perca flavescens; échantillons de poissons entiers). Les variables indépendantes incluent des caractéristiques biologiques, telles que la position trophique des poissons et leur condition physique; les variables spatiales comprennent, par exemple, la position hydrologique du lac et l'abondance des terres humides adjacentes; les variables chimiques regroupent, entre autres, le pH et la couleur de l'eau. La variable explicative la plus significative de la concentration de mercure chez les poissons est le pH (R2 = 0,42; p < 0,002). Parmi les caractéristiques biologiques mesurées, la condition physique des Perchaudes explique une partie significative additionnelle de la variation (R2 final = 0,54; p = 0,024). La position trophique n'explique que peu de la variabilité et il n'y a pas de corrélation entre l'abondance des populations de planctonophages et de piscivores et les concentrations de mercure chez les Perchaudes. Des modèles d'arbres de régression indiquent que les petits lacs qui ont plus de 6% de terres humides dans leur bassin versant ont des concentrations moyennes de mercure chez les poissons. Nos résultats montrent que les caractéristiques chimiques du lac même et les taux de croissance des poissons sont de meilleures variables explicatives des concentrations de mercure chez les Perchaudes que les caractéristiques spatiales, la position trophique ou la structure de la communauté de poissons.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 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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