Response of fish tissue mercury in a freshwater lake to local, regional, and global changes in mercury emissions



A suite of mechanistic atmospheric and mercury (Hg) cycling and bioaccumulation models is applied to simulate atmospheric Hg deposition and Hg concentrations in the water column and in fish in a Hg-impaired freshwater lake located in the northeastern United States that receives its Hg loading primarily through deposition. Two future-year scenarios evaluate the long-term response of fish tissue Hg concentrations to reductions in local and nationwide coal-fired electric-generating utility and other Hg emissions and an increase or decrease in global (non-US) Hg emissions. Results indicate that fish tissue Hg concentrations in this ecosystem could require approximately 3 yr to 8 yr to begin to respond to declines in US emissions and deposition with a fish Hg reduction proportional to deposition reduction requiring over 50 yr. Furthermore, recovery could potentially be partially or completely offset by growth in non-US Hg emissions. Environ Toxicol Chem 2014;33:1238–1247. © 2014 SETAC