Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 211-222

First online:

Contaminant concentrations in Asian carps, invasive species in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

  • D. L. RogowskiAffiliated withIllinois Natural History SurveyDepartment of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University Email author 
  • , D. J. SoucekAffiliated withIllinois Natural History Survey
  • , J. M. LevengoodAffiliated withIllinois Natural History Survey
  • , S. R. JohnsonAffiliated withIllinois Natural History SurveyCarbon Dynamics
  • , J. H. ChickAffiliated withIllinois Natural History Survey
  • , J. M. DettmersAffiliated withIllinois Natural History SurveyGreat Lakes Fishery Commission
  • , M. A. PeggAffiliated withIllinois Natural History SurveySchool of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • , J. M. EpifanioAffiliated withIllinois Natural History Survey

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Populations of invasive fishes quickly reach extremely high biomass. Before control methods can be applied, however, an understanding of the contaminant loads of these invaders carry is needed. We investigated differences in concentrations of selected elements in two invasive carp species as a function of sampling site, fish species, length and trophic differences using stable isotopes (δ 15N, δ 13C). Fish were collected from three different sites, the Illinois River near Havana, Illinois, and two sites in the Mississippi River, upstream and downstream of the Illinois River confluence. Five bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and five silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) from each site were collected for muscle tissue analyses. Freshwater mussels (Amblema plicata) previously collected in the same areas were used as an isotopic baseline to standardize fish results among sites. Total fish length, trophic position, and corrected 13C, were significantly related to concentrations of metals in muscle. Fish length explained the most variation in metal concentrations, with most of that variation related to mercury levels. This result was not unexpected because larger fish are older, giving them a higher probability of exposure and accumulation of contaminants. There was a significant difference in stable isotope profiles between the two species. Bighead carp occupied a higher trophic position and had higher levels of corrected 13C than silver carp. Additionally bighead carp had significantly lower concentrations of arsenic and selenium than silver carp. Stable isotope ratios of nitrogen in Asian carp were at levels that are more commonly associated with higher-level predators, or from organisms in areas containing high loads of wastewater effluent.


Stable isotopes Metals Carp Mississippi River Illinois River Invasive species