MERCURY RESIDUES AND PRODUCTIVITY IN OSPREY AND GREBES FROM A MINE-DOMINATED ECOSYSTEM

Authors

  • Daniel W. Anderson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
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  • Thomas H. Suchanek,

    1. Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
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    •  Present address: U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, 3020 State University Drive East, Sacramento, California 95819 USA.

  • Collin A. Eagles-Smith,

    1. Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
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    •  Present address: U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Davis Field Station, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616 USA.

  • Thomas M. Cahill Jr.

    1. Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
    2. Department of Chemistry, University of California, Davis, California 95616 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor (ad hoc): A. Fairbrother. For reprints of this Special Issue, see footnote 1, p. A1.

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) and reproduction and status of Western and Clark's Grebes (Aechmophorus sp.) and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) were studied from 1992 through 2001 and then less intensely through 2006 at Clear Lake, California, USA. Remediation to reduce Hg loading from the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine was initiated in 1992. Mercury in grebe feathers declined monotonically from ∼23 mg/kg dry mass (DM) in 1967–1969 to 1 mg/kg in 2003, but then increased to 7 mg/kg in 2004–2006. Mercury in Osprey feathers varied similarly, with mean values of 20 mg/kg DM in 1992, declining to a low of 2 mg/kg in 1998, but increasing to 23 mg/kg in 2003, and 12 mg/kg in 2006. Mercury in Osprey feathers at our reference site (Eagle Lake, California) remained low (1–8 ppm) throughout the entire period, 1992–2003. Grebe productivity at Clear Lake improved from ∼0.1 to 0.5 fledged young per adult during the latter part of the study when human disturbance was prevented. At that period in time, improved productivity did not differ from our reference site at Eagle Lake. Human disturbance, however, as a co-factor made it impossible to evaluate statistically subtle Hg effects on grebe productivity at Clear Lake. Osprey reproduced sufficiently to maintain increasing breeding numbers from 1992 to 2006. Mercury in Clear Lake water, sediments, invertebrates, and fish did not decline from 1992 to 2003, but a shift in trophic structure induced by an introduced planktivorous fish species may have caused significant alterations in Hg concentrations in several species of prey fishes that may have produced concomitant changes in Osprey and grebe Hg exposure. The temporary declines observed in grebe and Osprey feather residues in the late 1990s, with coincidental improvements in reproductive performance, however, could not be attributed to remediation at the mine site.

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