, Volume 567, Issue 1, pp 275-282

Bioaccumulation of mercury in yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and common loons (Gavia immer) in relation to lake chemistry in Atlantic Canada

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Abstract

Mercury biomagnifies in aquatic foodwebs in freshwater lakes, and common loons (Gavia immer) breeding in eastern Canada can be exposed to reproductively toxic concentrations of mercury in their fish prey. We assessed the bioaccumulation and biomagnification of mercury in juvenile and adult common loons, and their preferred prey: yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in Kejimkujik National Park (KNP), Nova Scotia by measuring mercury levels and stable isotope ratios in tissues. Total mercury levels and stable-carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen isotope ratios (δ15N) were determined in composite whole-fish samples from lakes in KNP and blood samples from juvenile and adult loons captured on lakes in KNP and southern New Brunswick. Geometric mean mercury concentrations were 0.15 and 0.38 μg/g (wet wt.) in small (9-cm fork length) and large (17-cm fork length) yellow perch, and were 0.43 and 2.7 μg/g (wet wt.) in blood of juvenile and adult common loons, respectively. Mercury concentrations in perch and loons were positively associated with body mass and δ15N values. Juvenile loons and large yellow perch had similar mercury levels and δ15N values, indicating similar trophic status despite their 22-fold difference in body mass. Mercury concentrations were higher in yellow perch and common loons in acidic lakes. Our findings highlight the importance of both chemical and ecological factors in understanding mercury biomagnification in lakes and associated risks to fish-eating wildlife.