Temporal trends, lake-to-lake variation, and climate effects on Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) mercury concentrations from six High Arctic lakes in Nunavut, Canada
Science of the Total Environment
25-year record, Climate, Heavy metals, Lacustrine, Land-locked Arctic char
Climate warming and mercury (Hg) are concurrently influencing Arctic ecosystems, altering their functioning and threatening food security. Non-anadromous Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) in small lakes were used to biomonitor these two anthropogenic stressors, because this iconic Arctic species is a long-lived top predator in relatively simple food webs, and yet population characteristics vary greatly, reflecting differences between lake systems. Mercury concentrations in six landlocked Arctic char populations on Cornwallis Island, Nunavut have been monitored as early as 1989, providing a novel dataset to examine differences in muscle [Hg] among char populations, temporal trends, and the relationship between climate patterns and Arctic char [Hg]. We found significant lake-to-lake differences in length-adjusted Arctic char muscle [Hg], which varied by up to 9-fold. Arctic char muscle [Hg] was significantly correlated to dissolved and particulate organic carbon concentrations in water; neither watershed area or vegetation cover explained differences. Three lakes exhibited significant temporal declines in length-adjusted [Hg] in Arctic char; the other three lakes had no significant trends. Though precipitation, temperature, wind speed, and sea ice duration were tested, no single climate variable was significantly correlated to length-adjusted [Hg] across populations. However, Arctic char Hg in Resolute Lake exhibited a significant correlation with sea ice duration, which is likely closely linked to lake ice duration, and which may impact Hg processing in lakes. Additionally, Arctic char [Hg] in Amituk Lake was significantly correlated to snow fall, which may be linked to Hg deposition. The lack of consistent temporal trends in neighboring char populations indicates that currently, within lake processes are the strongest drivers of [Hg] in char in the study lakes and potentially in other Arctic lakes, and that the influence of climate change will likely vary from lake to lake.
Hudelson, Karista E.; Muir, Derek C.G.; Drevnick, Paul E.; Köck, Günter; Iqaluk, Deborah; Wang, Xiaowa; Kirk, Jane L.; Barst, Benjamin D.; Grgicak-Mannion, Alice; Shearon, Rebecca; and Fisk, Aaron T.. (2019). Temporal trends, lake-to-lake variation, and climate effects on Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) mercury concentrations from six High Arctic lakes in Nunavut, Canada. Science of the Total Environment, 678, 801-812.