Date: 06 Jul 2010

Mercury-Contaminated Sediments Affect Amphipod Feeding

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Abstract

A 125-mile reach of the South River, Virginia, was contaminated with mercury during the first half of the 20th century. As increased concentrations of mercury have persisted, researchers have carefully studied its distribution in the river biota and estimated associated risks. The present study evaluated the influence of mercury on feeding rate and uptake by the amphipod Hyalella azteca. The test organisms were exposed for 7 days with leaf discs to reference and contaminated field sediment during the preliminary experiment and additionally to Sedimite (a commercial mercury-sequestering agent) amended sediments during the final experiment. The preliminary experiment demonstrated a decreased feeding rate (approximately 35%) of H. azteca in sediment from a contaminated site relative to sediment from a reference site. The test design of the final experiment took advantage of the knowledge gained in the preliminary experiment by increasing the number of replicates, which decreased the type II error rate. First, the results of the final experiment confirmed the results of the preliminary experiment by again demonstrating differences in the feeding rate of approximately 35% between reference and contaminated sediment. Second, the results indicated a lower feeding rate in reference sediment in the presence of Sedimite. Third, an opposite tendency, although not significant, was apparent for Sedimite-amended contaminated sediment. Thus, Sedimite appears to decrease sediment quality, whereas this conclusion is based on the feeding rate of H. azteca. However, Sedimite and its value as a mercury-sequestering agent requires further evaluation.