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Temporal changes in mercury bioaccumulation by predatory fishes of boreal lakes following the invasion of an exotic forage fish



We evaluated the prediction that mercury concentrations of predatory fishes in boreal lakes would rise following the invasion of an exotic forage fish species (rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax) that was believed to feed at a higher trophic position than native forage fishes. We compared temporal trends (postinvasion minus preinvasion values) in fish mercury bioaccumulation between lakes experiencing recent smelt invasions and reference lakes of central Canada. Piscivore mercury concentrations in this region have remained stable or declined during approximately the last 20 years. These trends were not strongly influenced by the smelt invasion, despite the fact that smelt were a major prey item for all piscivore species examined. The effect of smelt invasion on mercury bioaccumulation in the predator species reflected the importance of smelt in their respective diets (lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush > walleye, Stizostedion vitreum > northern pike, Esox lucius). However, these effects were not statistically significant for any piscivore species. The impact of rainbow smelt invasion on mercury bioaccumulation in native piscivores of this region has been much less than previous food-web studies have predicted.

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