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Selenium and Other Trace Elements in Aquatic Insects in Coal Mine–Affected Streams in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada

Abstract

We determined levels of Se, As, Cd, Pb, and Zn in aquatic insects at coal mine–impacted and reference sites in streams in the Rocky Mountain foothills of west central Alberta from 2001–2003. Selenium levels were greater at coal mine–impacted sites than at reference sites in caddisflies but not in mayflies or stoneflies. Arsenic levels were greater at coal mine–impacted sites than at reference sites in caddisflies and stoneflies but not in mayflies. Zn levels were higher at coal mine–impacted sites than at reference sites in all three groups of insects. At coal mine–impacted sites, Se levels in mayflies and caddisflies were greater than those in stoneflies while at reference sites mayflies contained greater concentrations of Se than either caddisflies or stoneflies. Arsenic levels in mayflies were greater than those in caddisflies at reference and coal mine–impacted sites and were greater than those in stoneflies at reference sites. At both types of sites Cd differed amongst insect taxa in the order of mayflies > caddisflies > stoneflies. The same was true of Zn at coal mine–affected sites. At reference sites, stoneflies had greater concentrations of Zn than both mayflies and caddisflies. At both types of sites, Pb levels were greater in mayflies and caddisflies than they were in stoneflies. Of the five trace elements considered in this study, only Se was sufficiently elevated in aquatic invertebrates to be of potential concern for consumers such as fish and aquatic birds. Such was the case at both coal mine–impacted and reference sites.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the following individuals who assisted with various aspects of this project: R. Casey, X. Feng, J. Froese, J. Keating, D. Lindeman, G. Sardella, and M. Su. Funding was provided by Environment Canada, in part through its Environmental Assessment Research Fund.

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Correspondence to Mark Wayland.

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Wayland, M., Crosley, R. Selenium and Other Trace Elements in Aquatic Insects in Coal Mine–Affected Streams in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 50, 511–522 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-005-0114-8

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Keywords

  • Coal Mine
  • Reference Site
  • Trace Element Concentration
  • Aquatic Insect
  • Site Type