Mercury speciation and biomagnification in the food web of Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana, USA, a subtropical freshwater ecosystem



We studied the biomagnification of total mercury and methylmercury in a subtropical freshwater lake, Caddo Lake, Texas and Louisiana, USA. The present study is unique in that it not only included invertebrates (seven species) and fish (six species) but also an amphibian (one species), reptiles (three species), and mammals (three species). Nonfish vertebrates such as those included in the present study are often not included in assessments of trophic transfer of Hg. Mean trophic position (determined using stable isotopes of nitrogen) ranged from 2.0 (indicative of a primary consumer) to 3.8 (indicative of a tertiary consumer). Mean total Hg concentrations ranged from 36 to 3,292 ng/g dry weight in muscle and whole body and from 150 to 30,171 ng/g dry weight in liver. Most of the Hg in muscle and whole-body tissue was found as methylmercury, and at least 50% of the Hg found in liver was in the inorganic form (with the exception of largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides). Mercury concentrations were positively correlated with trophic position, indicating that biomagnification occurs in the food web of Caddo Lake. The food web magnification factors (FWMFs; slope of the relationship between mean Hg concentration and trophic position) for both total Hg and methylmercury were similar to those observed in other studies. Because most of the total Hg in consumers was methylmercury, the FWMF for methylmercury was not significantly different from the FWMF for total Hg. Some vertebrates examined in the present study had low Hg concentrations in their tissues similar to those observed in invertebrates, whereas others had concentrations of Hg in their tissues that in previous studies have been associated with negative health consequences in fish. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1153–1162. © 2011 SETAC