Relationships Between Mercury Concentration in Young-of-the-Year Yellow Perch and Precipitation Depth, Water Level, and Temperature


This article identifies environmental factors that explain most of the dynamic year-to-year changes in mercury concentrations of young-of-year (YOY) yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in study reservoirs. Mercury concentrations in fish, collected each fall, were measured for 9 years in four reservoirs in northeastern Minnesota. Three to 4 years of data were also obtained for two natural lakes and one other reservoir. Average annual concentrations varied considerably from year to year with a mean change of 39% between consecutive years across all lakes. Those averages show a similar time trend for each lake over the years and suggest that important factors influencing mercury bioaccumulation change annually and are also experienced in common over the study region. Three factors satisfying that description are precipitation depth, water level, and average air temperature. This article reveals that all three have statistically significant correlations with observed mercury concentrations. Moreover, multiple regressions indicate that maximum water levels and average air temperatures explain most of the observed variations. Regressions employing precipitation depth and temperature are less significant.

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Field sampling was assisted by FDLR staff including Thomas Howes, Terry Perrault, Brian Borkholder, Sean Thompson, Adam Thompson, John Goodreau, and Lance Overland. Also helping with sample collection were Gary Sorensen, Diane Sorensen, and Donna Busick. Stephanie Suckow helped with mercury analyses, and Richard Green provided valuable assistance with statistics advice. Amber Waseen, Gary Glass, Diane Sorensen, and Donna Busick provided appreciated advice with writing this report.


Funding for sample collection and analyses were obtained from the National Park Service 6820-0202-NYZ, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Fond du Lac Reservation (FDLR).

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Correspondence to John A. Sorensen.

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Sorensen, J.A. Relationships Between Mercury Concentration in Young-of-the-Year Yellow Perch and Precipitation Depth, Water Level, and Temperature. Water Air Soil Pollut 230, 83 (2019).

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  • Mercury
  • Fish
  • Water levels
  • Reservoir
  • Temperature