Landscape-level patterns of mercury contamination of fish in North Texas, USA



Mercury (Hg) is a toxic metal that is found in aquatic food webs and is hazardous to humans. An emerging conceptual model predicts that the areas of the landscape that have the potential to contain food webs with elevated concentrations of Hg are those that receive high amounts of Hg and sulfate deposition and have high coverage of forests and wetlands and low coverage of agriculture. The objective of the present study was to test this conceptual model using concentrations of Hg in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) from 145 reservoirs in four ecoregions of North Texas. The highest level of Hg contamination in fish was in the South Central Plains, the ecoregion that receives the highest levels of Hg and sulfate deposition and contains extensive forest and wetland habitat and little agriculture. The present study has important implications for other areas of the United States, because the South Central Plains extend into parts of Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas, covering a total area of 152,132 km2 of the southern United States. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2041–2045. © 2011 SETAC