Effects of fish on mercury contamination of macroinvertebrate communities of Grassland ponds



Mercury is an environmental contaminant that negatively affects the health of vertebrate consumers such as fish, birds, and mammals. Although aquatic macroinvertebrates are a key link in the trophic transfer of Hg to vertebrate consumers, Hg contamination in macroinvertebrate communities has not been well studied. The purpose of the present study was to examine how Hg in macroinvertebrate communities is affected by the presence of fish. We sampled macroinvertebrates from five ponds with fish and five ponds without fish, at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Grassland in north Texas, USA. Ponds without fish contained a higher biomass of macroinvertebrates and taxa with higher concentrations of Hg, which led to a higher Hg pool in the macroinvertebrate community. A total of 73% of the macroinvertebrate biomass from ponds without fish was composed of taxa with the potential to emerge and transport Hg out of ponds into terrestrial food webs. The results of the present study suggest that small ponds, the numerically dominant aquatic ecosystems in the United States, may be more at risk for containing organisms with elevated Hg concentrations than has been appreciated. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:870–876. © 2012 SETAC