Recent declines in mercury concentration in a freshwater fishery: Isolating the effects of de-acidification and decreased atmospheric mercury deposition in Little Rock Lake

T. R. Hrabik, C. J. Watras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

The atmospheric deposition of H+, SO4, and Hg to Little Rock Lake in northern Wisconsin has declined substantially during the past decade. Parallel decreases have been observed in the surface waters of the lake. Here we extend the observations to the fish community and we present evidence of a contemporaneous decline in levels of Hg in fish tissue. By comparing data from two separated basins of the lake, we then make an initial effort to isolate and quantify the relative importance of de-acidification and reduced Hg deposition on mercury contamination in fish. Statistical modeling indicates that fish Hg in both basins decreased by roughly 30% between 1994 and 2000 (-5%/y) due to decreased atmospheric Hg loading. De-acidification could account for an additional 5% decrease in one basin (-0.8%/y) and a further 30% decrease in the other basin (-5%/y), since the basins de-acidified at very different rates. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that depositional inputs of SO4 and Hg(II) co-mediate the biosynthesis of methyl mercury and thereby co-limit bioaccumulation. And they suggest that modest changes in acid rain or mercury deposition can significantly affect mercury bioaccumulation over short-time scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume297
Issue number1-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 7 2002

Keywords

  • Acid rain
  • Atmospheric mercury deposition
  • Mercury bioaccumulation
  • Methyl mercury
  • Yellow perch

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