Uptake of environmental contaminants by small mammals in pickleweed habitats at San Francisco Bay, California

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Small mammals were live-trapped in pickleweed (Salicornia virginica) habitats near San Francisco Bay, California in order to measure the uptake of several contaminants and to evaluate the potential effects of these contaminants on the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). Tissues of house mice (Mus musculus), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and California voles (Microtus californicus) from nine sites were analyzed for chemical contaminants including mercury, selenium, cadmium, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Concentrations of contaminants differed significantly among sites and species. Mean concentrations at sites where uptake was greatest were less than maximum means for the same or similar species recorded elsewhere. Harvest mice (Reithrodontomys spp.) were captured only at sites where concentrations of mercury or PCBs were below specific levels in house mice. Additional studies aimed at the protection of the salt marsh harvest mouse are suggested. These include contaminant feeding studies in the laboratory as well as field monitoring of surrogate species and community structure in salt marsh harvest mouse habitats.