, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 697–709 | Cite as

Mercury bioaccumulation and trophic transfer in the terrestrial food web of a montane forest

  • Christopher C. Rimmer
  • Eric K. Miller
  • Kent P. McFarland
  • Robert J. Taylor
  • Steven D. Faccio


We investigated mercury (Hg) concentrations in a terrestrial food web in high elevation forests in Vermont. Hg concentrations increased from autotrophic organisms to herbivores < detritivores < omnivores < carnivores. Within the carnivores studied, raptors had higher blood Hg concentrations than their songbird prey. The Hg concentration in the blood of the focal study species, Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus bicknelli), varied over the course of the summer in response to a diet shift related to changing availability of arthropod prey. The Bicknell’s thrush food web is more detrital-based (with higher Hg concentrations) in early summer and more foliage-based (with lower Hg concentrations) during late summer. There were significant year effects in different ecosystem compartments indicating a possible connection between atmospheric Hg deposition, detrital-layer Hg concentrations, arthropod Hg concentrations, and passerine blood Hg concentrations.


Mercury bioaccumulation Food web Catharus bicknelli Montane forests 



We gratefully acknowledge funding support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the University of Vermont for this study. Our ongoing avian research on Stratton Mountain was supported by the Stratton Mountain Resort, Thomas Marshall Foundation, Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, and friends of both the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. We thank the many dedicated field biologists who assisted with collection of these data under frequently difficult conditions. We are grateful to Allan Strong for providing access to unpublished arthropod data from Stratton Mountain. We are indebted to staff of the Texas A&M Trace Element Research Laboratory for conducting all aspects of the mercury analyses. Jason Townsend provided constructive reviews of an early manuscript draft. We are grateful for additional constructive comments from David Evers and an anonymous reviewer.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher C. Rimmer
    • 1
  • Eric K. Miller
    • 2
  • Kent P. McFarland
    • 1
  • Robert J. Taylor
    • 3
  • Steven D. Faccio
    • 1
  1. 1.Vermont Center for EcostudiesNorwichUSA
  2. 2.Ecosystems Research Group, Ltd.NorwichUSA
  3. 3.Trace Element Research Laboratory, Department of Veterinary Integrative BiosciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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