In the relatively pristine ecosystem in Kejimkujik Park, Nova Scotia, methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations in loons, Gavia immer, are among the highest recorded anywhere in the world. This study investigated the influence of bedrock lithology on MeHg concentrations in wetlands. Twenty-five different wetland field sites were sampled over four different bedrock lithologies; Kejimkujik monzogranite, black sulfidic slate, gray slate, and greywacke. Soil samples were analyzed for ethylmercury (EtHg), MeHg, total Hg, acid-volatile sulfides (AVS), organic matter, and water content as well as the biological parameters, mercury methyltransferase (HgMT) activity, sulfate reduction rates, fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) composition, and acidity. Methylmercury concentrations in the wetlands were highly dependent (P
In temperate regions of Canada, mercury (Hg) concentrations in biota and the magnitude of Hg biomagnification through food webs vary between neighboring lakes and are related to water chemistry variables and physical lake features. However, few studies have examined factors affecting the variable Hg concentrations in landlocked Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) or the biomagnification of Hg through their food webs. We estimated the food web structure of six high Arctic lakes near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canada, using stable carbon (d(13)C) and nitrogen (d(15)N) isotopes and measured Hg (total Hg (THg) in char, the only fish species, and methylmercury (MeHg) in chironomids and zooplankton) concentrations in biota collected in 2010 and 2011. Across lakes, d(13)C showed that benthic carbon (chironomids) was the dominant food source for char. Regression models of log Hg versus d(15)N (of char and benthic invertebrates) showed positive and significant slopes, indicting Hg biomagnification in all lakes, and higher slopes in some lakes than others. However, no principal components (PC) generated using all water chemistry data and physical characteristics of the lakes predicted the different slopes. The PC dominated by aqueous ions was a negative predictor of MeHg concentrations in chironomids, suggesting that water chemistry affects Hg bioavailability and MeHg concentrations in these lower-trophic-level organisms. Furthermore, regression intercepts were predicted by the PCs dominated by catchment area, aqueous ions, and MeHg. Weaker relationships were also found between THg in small char or MeHg in pelagic invertebrates and the PCs dominated by catchment area, and aqueous nitrate and MeHg. Results from these high Arctic lakes suggest that Hg biomagnification differs between systems and that their physical and chemical characteristics affect Hg concentrations in lower-trophic-level biota.
The Leach's storm-petrel (Hydrobates leucorhous) is one of the most abundant and widely distributed marine birds in the North Atlantic but is under global population decline, possibly linked to marine pollution. We determined levels of ingested plastic and hepatic total mercury (THg) in recently fledged juveniles that stranded in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and assessed the relationship to body condition, size and diet. Plastic prevalence was high (87.5%) but hepatic THg was relatively low (mean 486.7 ng/g dry weight) compared to other studies. Levels of neither pollutant were significantly related to body metrics of health. Our data confirm that plastic and mercury are pervasive in the western North Atlantic Ocean, prominent even in young birds.
Recurring polynyas are important areas of biological productivity and feeding grounds for seabirds and mammals in the Arctic marine environment. In this study, we examined food web structure (using carbon and nitrogen isotopes, d(13)C and d(15)N) and mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation and biomagnification in a small recurring polynya ecosystem near Nasaruvaalik Island (Nunavut, Canada). Methyl Hg (MeHg) concentrations increased by more than 50-fold from copepods (Calanus hyperboreus) to Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea), the abundant predators at this site. The biomagnification of MeHg through members of the food web - using the slope of log MeHg versus d(15)N - was 0.157 from copepods (C. hyperboreus) to fish. This slope was higher (0.267) when seabird chicks were included in the analyses. Collectively, our results indicate that MeHg biomagnification is occurring in this small polynya and that its trophic transfer is at the lower end of the range of estimates from other Arctic marine ecosystems. In addition, we measured Hg concentrations in some poorly studied members of Arctic marine food webs [e.g. Arctic alligatorfish (Ulcina olrikii) and jellyfish, Medusozoa], and found that MeHg concentrations in jellyfish were lower than expected given their trophic position. Overall, these findings provide fundamental information about food web structure and mercury contamination in a small Arctic polynya, which will inform future research in such ecosystems and provide a baseline against which to assess changes over time resulting from environmental disturbance.
Mercury (Hg) concentrations are a concern in the Canadian Arctic, because they are relatively high compared to background levels and to similar species farther south, and are increasing in many wildlife species. Among marine birds breeding in the Canadian Arctic, Hg concentrations have been monitored regularly in eggs and intermittently in livers, but feathers have generally not been used as an indicator of Hg exposure or burden. We examined Hg concentrations in six marine bird species in the Canadian Arctic. Ivory gull Pagophila eburnea, feather Hg was exceptionally high, while glaucous gull Larus hyperboreus feather Hg was unexpectedly low, and ratios of feather THg to egg THg varied across species. The proportion of total Hg that was comprised of methyl Hg in ivory gull feathers was lower than in other species, and may be related to photo-demethylation or keratin breakdown in semi-opaque feather tissue.
Mercury (Hg) is an important environmental contaminant, due to its neurotoxicity and ability to bioaccumulate. The Arctic is a mercury-sensitive region, where organisms can accumulate high Hg concentrations. Snowpack mercury photo-redox reactions may control how much Hg is transported with melting Arctic snow. This work aimed to: 1) determine the significance of temperature combined with UV irradiation intensity, and snow age on Hg(0) flux from Arctic snow, and 2) elucidate the effect of temperature on snowpack Hg photoreduction kinetics. Using a Teflon flux chamber, snow temperature, UV irradiation and snow age were found to significantly influence Hg(0) flux from Arctic snow. Cross correlation analysis results suggest that UV radiation has a direct effect on Hg(0)flux, while temperature may indirectly influence flux. Laboratory experiments determined that temperature influenced Hg photoreduction kinetics when snow approached the melting point (>-2 °C), where the pseudo-first order reduction rate constant, k, decreased ~two-fold, and the photoreduced Hg amount, Hg(II)red, increased ten-fold. This suggests that temperature influences Hg photoreduction kinetics indirectly, likely by altering the solid: liquid water ratio. These results imply that large mass transfers of Hg from snow to air may take place during the Arctic snowmelt period, altering photoreducible Hg retention and transport with snow meltwater.