Mercury and other trace elements in a pelagic Arctic marine food web (Northwater Polynya, Baffin Bay)

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Science of the Total Environment



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Arctic, Biodilution, Biomagnification, Mercury, Metals, Methyl mercury, Seabirds, Stable nitrogen isotopes

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Total mercury (THg), methylmercury (MeHg) and 22 other trace elements were measured in ice algae, three species of zooplankton, mixed zooplankton samples, Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), ringed seals (Phoca hispida) and eight species of seabirds to examine the trophodynamics of these metals in an Arctic marine food web. All samples were collected in 1998 in the Northwater Polynya (NOW) located between Ellesmere Island and Greenland in Baffin Bay. THg and MeHg were found to biomagnify through the NOW food web, based on significant positive relationships between log THg and log MeHg concentrations vs. δ15N muscle and liver . The slope of these relationships for muscle THg and MeHg concentrations (slope = 0.197 and 0.223, respectively) were similar to those reported for other aquatic food webs. The food web behavior of THg and δ15N appears constant, regardless of trophic state (eutrophic vs. oligotrophic), latitude (Arctic vs. tropical) or salinity (marine vs. freshwater) of the ecosystem. Rb in both liver and muscle tissue and Zn in muscle tissue were also found to biomagnify through this food web, although at a rate that is approximately 25% of that of THg. A number of elements (Cd, Pb and Ni in muscle tissue and Cd and Li in seabird liver tissue) were found to decrease trophically through the food web, as indicated by significantly negative relationships with tissue-specific δ15N. A diverse group of metals (Ag, Ba, La, Li, Sb, Sr, U and V) were found to have higher concentrations in zooplankton than seabirds or marine mammals due to bioconcentration from seawater. The remaining metals (As, Co, Cu, Ga, Mn, Mo and Se in muscle tissue) showed no relationship with trophic position, as indicated by δ15N values, although As in liver tissue showed significant biomagnification in the seabird portion of the food web.





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