Aquatic to terrestrial transfer of sediment associated persistent organic pollutants is enhanced by bioamplification processes



Ephemeral emergent insects, such as mayflies (Hexagenia spp.), are commonly used as biomonitors of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and provide a vector for aquatic-terrestrial contaminant transfer. Mayflies bioaccumulate sediment-associated contaminants by bioconcentration and biomagnification during the aquatic stage and concentrate POP residues postemergence due to bioamplification, which occurs as a result of weight and lipid loss without contaminant loss. The present study quantified polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) bioamplification in male and female emergent mayflies at three sites. Male mayflies used 36 to 68% of their lipids during emergence, with the exception of caged males that were prevented from flight. Females did not lose lipid content between pre-emergent nymph and emerged life stages. Mass balance indicated no PCB elimination between life stages. The mean PCB bioamplification factor, expressed as the ratio of lipid-equivalent PCB concentrations across life stages, was 2.05 ± 0.38 for male imagos/nymphs and 1.91 ± 0.18 for male imago/subimago life stages. For females, bioamplification factors were close to unity. Wildlife consumers of imago stages of emergent mayflies can potentially increase their total daily intake of PCBs by 36% depending on the sex-ratio composition of their diet relative to animals that feed predominantly on nymph or subimago stages during mass emergence events. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:2167–2174. © 2011 SETAC