Diet, age, and growth rate influences on fish mercury concentrations were investigated for Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in lakes of the eastern Canadian Arctic. We hypothesized that faster-growing fish have lower mercury concentrations because of growth dilution, a process whereby more efficient growth dilutes a fish's mercury burden. Using datasets of 57 brook trout and 133 Arctic char, linear regression modelling showed fish age and diet indices were the dominant explanatory variables of muscle mercury concentrations for both species. Faster-growing fish (based on length-at-age) fed at a higher trophic position, and as a result, their mercury concentrations were not lower than slower-growing fish. Muscle RNA/DNA ratios were used as a physiological indicator of short-term growth rate (days to weeks). Slower growth of Arctic char, inferred from RNA/DNA ratios, was found in winter versus summer and in polar desert versus tundra lakes, but RNA/DNA ratio was (at best) a weak predictor of fish mercury concentration. Net effects of diet and age on mercury concentration were greater than any potential offset by biomass dilution in faster-growing fish. In these resource-poor Arctic lakes, faster growth was associated with feeding at a higher trophic position, likely due to greater caloric (and mercury) intake, rather than growth efficiency.
Permafrost thaw ponds are ubiquitous in the eastern Canadian Arctic, yet little information exists on their potential as sources of methylmercury (MeHg) to freshwaters. They are microbially active and conducive to methylation of inorganic mercury, and are also affected by Arctic warming. This multiyear study investigated thaw ponds in a discontinuous permafrost region in the Subarctic taiga (Kuujjuarapik-Whapmagoostui, QC) and a continuous permafrost region in the Arctic tundra (Bylot Island, NU). MeHg concentrations in thaw ponds were well above levels measured in most freshwater ecosystems in the Canadian Arctic (>0.1 ng L(-1)). On Bylot, ice-wedge trough ponds showed significantly higher MeHg (0.3-2.2 ng L(-1)) than polygonal ponds (0.1-0.3 ng L(-1)) or lakes (
We investigated monomethylmercury (MMHg) bioaccumulation in lakes across a 30? latitudinal gradient in eastern Canada to test the hypothesis that climate-related environmental conditions affect the sensitivity of Arctic lakes to atmospheric mercury contamination. Aquatic invertebrates (chironomid larvae, zooplankton) provided indicators of MMHg bioaccumulation near the base of benthic and planktonic food chains. In step with published data showing latitudinal declines in atmospheric mercury deposition in Canada, we observed lower total mercury concentrations in water and sediment of higher latitude lakes. Despite latitudinal declines of inorganic mercury exposure, MMHg bioaccumulation in aquatic invertebrates did not concomitantly decline. Arctic lakes with greater MMHg in aquatic invertebrates either had: (1) higher water MMHg concentrations (reflecting ecosystem MMHg production) or (2) low water concentrations of MMHg, DOC, chlorophyll and total nitrogen (reflecting lake sensitivity). The MMHg:DOC ratio of surface water was a strong predictor of lake sensitivity to mercury contamination. Bioaccumulation factors for biofilms and seston in Arctic lakes showed more efficient uptake of MMHg in low DOC systems. Environmental conditions associated with low biological production in Arctic lakes and their watersheds increased the sensitivity of lakes to MMHg.