Key contributors to variations in fish mercury within and among freshwater reservoirs in Oklahoma, USA†
Elevated fish mercury (Hg) concentrations in freshwater ecosystems worldwide are a significant human and ecological health concern. Mercury bioaccumulation and biomagnification in lakes and reservoirs are controlled by numerous biogeochemical and ecological factors, contributing to variability in fish Hg concentrations both within and among systems. We measured total mercury concentrations ([THg]) and stable isotopes (δ15N, δ13C) in over 30 fish species in two connected subtropical freshwater reservoirs (Grand Lake and Lake Hudson, Oklahoma, USA), their tributaries, and local farm ponds, all of which are potentially impacted by nearby atmospheric Hg sources. We also conducted an inter-system analysis among 61 reservoirs in Oklahoma to explore biological, chemical and physical factors associated with fish [THg] across systems. We found that [THg] for most species in Grand Lake and Lake Hudson were relatively low compared to other reservoirs in Oklahoma. There were significant spatial variations in many species within and between Grand Lake and Lake Hudson, even after accounting for length and/or trophic position (based on δ15N). Fish in local farm ponds, commonly used in agricultural regions for raising game fish, had 2–17 times higher [THg] than fish of a similar length in nearby reservoirs. The inter-system analysis revealed that pH, water color, rainfall, and nutrients are the best predictors of fish [THg] across systems. Our results provide insight into the key factors associated with fish [THg] variations both within and across systems, and may be useful for exposure assessment and for identifying sites and water bodies prone to high fish [THg] as monitoring priorities.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Editor’s Choice: Underappreciated Science