Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 22, Issue 15, pp 11558–11573 | Cite as

Lake and watershed influences on the distribution of elemental contaminants in the Rideau Canal System, a UNESCO world heritage site

  • Shannon S. M. Stuyt
  • E. Emily V. Chapman
  • Linda M. CampbellEmail author
Research Article


Watershed-specific variables such as sediment particle size distribution, water depth, sedimentation rate, focusing factors, and catchment area to lake area ratio can affect the distribution of trace element contaminants to lakes. The aim of this study was to investigate sources of metals to three headwater lakes and to quantify effects of watershed-specific variables on spatial and temporal trends of trace elements (As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, K, Ni, Pb, Rb, and Zn) in sediments and mercury (Hg) concentrations in fish. Surface sediment and water samples were used to characterize spatial patterns, while sediment cores were collected to portray temporal trends. Historical trends of Hg in northern pike (Esox lucius) were assessed in relation to paleolimnological trends of sediment Hg concentrations. Similarity in timing of sediment peak trace element concentrations for the lakes suggests large-scale, atmospheric sources. The lake with highest catchment area-to-lake area ratio was consistently associated with highest sediment elemental concentrations and displayed significant correlations between increased sediment Hg concentrations and decreased pike tissue concentrations over time. This suggests that catchment area-to-lake area ratio is an important factor influencing the concentration of atmospherically derived contaminants within lake sediments and their transfer through the food web.


Metals Mercury Sediment Rideau Canal Distribution patterns Watershed characteristics 



This project was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and Queen’s Chancellor Award to Linda Campbell and by an Ontario Graduate Scholarship to Shannon Stuyt (nee Leblond). The authors thank John Smol and Peter Hodson, Department of Biology, Queen’s University for their feedback. The members of Queen’s PEARL research group, especially Dr. Brian Cumming and Chris Grooms, provided advice regarding equipment and data. Frank Phelan of Queen’s University Biological Station provided field support and access to QUBS boats when needed. John Rorabeck and Tom Pritchard assisted with obtaining fish on the Rideau Lakes. Hillary Knack, Chantal Vis, and other Parks Canada staff in Smiths Falls, Ontario, provided field support, information on logistics and history of the Rideau, and the use of Parks Canada facilities and boats.

Conflict of interest

No conflicts of interest are declared for this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon S. M. Stuyt
    • 1
    • 3
  • E. Emily V. Chapman
    • 2
  • Linda M. Campbell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biology and School of Environmental StudiesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Environmental ScienceSaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Golder Associates Ltd.OttawaCanada

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