This project examined the pathways of mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation and its relation to trophic position and hydroperiod in the Everglades. I described fish-diet differences across habitats and seasons by analyzing stomach contents of 4,000 fishes of 32 native and introduced species. Major foods included periphyton, detritus/algal conglomerate, small invertebrates, aquatic insects, decapods, and fishes. Florida gar, largemouth bass, pike killifish, and bowfin were at the top of the piscine food web. Using prey volumes, I quantitatively classified the fishes into trophic groups of herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Stable-isotope analysis of fishes and invertebrates gave an independent and similar assessment of trophic placement. Trophic patterns were similar to those from tropical communities. I tested for correlations of trophic position and total mercury. Over 4,000 fish, 620 invertebrate, and 46 plant samples were analyzed for mercury with an atomic-fluorescence spectrometer. Mercury varied within and among taxa. Invertebrates ranged from 25–200 ng g −1 ww. Small-bodied fishes varied from 78–>400 ng g −1 ww. Large predatory fishes were highest, reaching a maximum of 1,515 ng−1 ww. Hg concentrations in both fishes and invertebrates were positively correlated with trophic position. I examined the effects of season and hydroperiod on mercury in wild and caged mosquitofish at three pairs of marshes. Nine monthly collections of wild mosquitofish were analyzed. Hydroperiod-within-site significantly affected concentrations but it interacted with sampling period. To control for wild-fish dispersal, and to measure in situ uptake and growth, I placed captive-reared, neonate mosquitofish with mercury levels from 7–14 ng g−1 ww into field cages in the six study marshes in six trials. Uptake rates ranged from 0.25–3.61 ng g−1 ww d −1. As with the wild fish, hydroperiod-within-site was a significant main effect that also interacted with sampling period. Survival exceeded 80%. Growth varied with season and hydroperiod, with greatest growth in short-hydroperiod marshes. The results suggest that dietary bioaccumulation determined mercury levels in Everglades aquatic animals, and that, although hydroperiod affected mercury uptake, its effect varied with season.
|Accumulation and fate of mercury in an Everglades aquatic food web
|Florida International University
|Southeast Ecological Science Center
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