Accumulation and fate of mercury in an Everglades aquatic food web

William Frances Loftus, Florida International University


This project examined the pathways of mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation and its relation to trophic position and hydroperiod in the Everglades. I described fish-diet differences across habitats and seasons by analyzing stomach contents of 4,000 fishes of 32 native and introduced species. Major foods included periphyton, detritus/algal conglomerate, small invertebrates, aquatic insects, decapods, and fishes. Florida gar, largemouth bass, pike killifish, and bowfin were at the top of the piscine food web. Using prey volumes, I quantitatively classified the fishes into trophic groups of herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Stable-isotope analysis of fishes and invertebrates gave an independent and similar assessment of trophic placement. Trophic patterns were similar to those from tropical communities. I tested for correlations of trophic position and total mercury. Over 4,000 fish, 620 invertebrate, and 46 plant samples were analyzed for mercury with an atomic-fluorescence spectrometer. Mercury varied within and among taxa. Invertebrates ranged from 25–200 ng g −1 ww. Small-bodied fishes varied from 78–>400 ng g −1 ww. Large predatory fishes were highest, reaching a maximum of 1,515 ng−1 ww. Hg concentrations in both fishes and invertebrates were positively correlated with trophic position. I examined the effects of season and hydroperiod on mercury in wild and caged mosquitofish at three pairs of marshes. Nine monthly collections of wild mosquitofish were analyzed. Hydroperiod-within-site significantly affected concentrations but it interacted with sampling period. To control for wild-fish dispersal, and to measure in situ uptake and growth, I placed captive-reared, neonate mosquitofish with mercury levels from 7–14 ng g−1 ww into field cages in the six study marshes in six trials. Uptake rates ranged from 0.25–3.61 ng g−1 ww d −1. As with the wild fish, hydroperiod-within-site was a significant main effect that also interacted with sampling period. Survival exceeded 80%. Growth varied with season and hydroperiod, with greatest growth in short-hydroperiod marshes. The results suggest that dietary bioaccumulation determined mercury levels in Everglades aquatic animals, and that, although hydroperiod affected mercury uptake, its effect varied with season. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Ecology

Recommended Citation

Loftus, William Frances, "Accumulation and fate of mercury in an Everglades aquatic food web" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9991050.