Predicting mercury levels in yellow perch: Use of water chemistry, trophic ecology, and spatial traits

B. K. Greenfield, T. R. Hrabik, C. J. Harvey, S. R. Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that wetland abundance surrounding lakes, fish trophic position, and fish community composition may influence the bioavailability of mercury (Hg) to fish. To compare the importance of these spatial and biological factors to chemical factors known to influence bioavailability, we determined the relationship between 24 lake traits and Hg concentrations in yellow perch (Perca flavescens; whole fish samples) for 43 northern Wisconsin lakes. Independent variables included biological traits such as fish trophic position and body condition, spatial traits such as lake hydrologic position and surrounding wetland abundance, and chemical traits such as pH and water color. The strongest predictor of fish Hg levels was pH (R2 = 0.42; p < 0.002). Of the biological traits measured, yellow perch body condition explained significant additional variation (final R2 = 0.54; p = 0.024). Trophic position explained limited variability and population abundance of planktivores and piscivores were not correlated to perch Hg levels. Regression tree models indicated that small lakes with greater than 6% wetland in their watershed have moderately elevated fish Hg levels. Our results indicate that within-lake chemistry and fish growth patterns are stronger correlates of Hg levels in yellow perch than spatial traits, trophic position, or fish community attributes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1419-1429
Number of pages11
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2001


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