, Volume 694, Issue 1, pp 87–98 | Cite as

Evidence of elevated mercury levels in carnivorous and omnivorous fishes downstream from an Amazon reservoir

  • Daniele Kasper
  • Elisabete Fernandes Albuquerque Palermo
  • Christina Wyss Castelo Branco
  • Olaf Malm
Primary Research Paper


Hydroelectric reservoirs can stratify, producing favorable conditions for mercury methylation in the hypolimnion. The methylmercury (MeHg) can be exported downstream, increasing its bioavailability below the dam. Our objective was to assess the mercury levels in plankton, suspended particulate matter (SPM) and fish collected upstream (UP) and downstream (DW) from the Reservatório de Samuel dam, an Amazonian reservoir that stratifies during half of the year. Mercury concentrations in both SPM and plankton were similar between the two sites, which could indicate there are no conditions favoring methylation at the moment of sampling (absence of stratification). Almost all mercury found in the muscle of fishes was in organic form, and differences of mercury levels between sites were dependent on the fishes trophic level. Herbivores showed similar mean organic mercury levels (UP = 117 μg g−1; DW = 120 μg g−1; n = 12), whereas omnivores (UP = 142 μg g−1; DW = 534 μg g−1; n = 27) and carnivores (UP = 545 μg g−1; DW = 1,366 μg g−1; n = 69) showed significantly higher values below the dam. The absence of a reservoir effect in herbivores is expected, since they feed on grassy vegetation, near the riverbanks, which is not much influenced by mercury in aquatic systems. On the other hand, the higher mercury levels below the dam observed for omnivores and carnivores suggest a possible influence of the reservoir since they feed on items that could be contaminated by MeHg exported from upstream. The results highlight the necessity of assessing areas downstream of reservoirs.


Bioaccumulation Fish tissues Hydroelectric Organic mercury Methylation 



The authors thank the financial support of Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (scholarship to D Kasper), Centrais Elétricas do Norte do Brasil and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico. We are most thankful to the staff at the laboratory Biogeoquímica Ambiental (UNIR) for their help (WR Bastos, R Almeida, JM Menezes, IBB Holanda, DP Carvalho). The authors thank CAO Ribeiro, VF Magalhães, EP Caramaschi, JRD Guimarães, JL Brito, and RP Leitão for important contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniele Kasper
    • 1
  • Elisabete Fernandes Albuquerque Palermo
    • 2
  • Christina Wyss Castelo Branco
    • 3
  • Olaf Malm
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratório de Radioisótopos Eduardo Penna FrancaInstituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Ilha do FundãoRio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratório de Química AmbientalUniversidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Núcleo de Estudos LimnológicosUniversidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO)Rio de JaneiroBrazil

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