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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2000 Apr;38(3):283-97.

Factors controlling the bioaccumulation of mercury, methylmercury, arsenic, selenium, and cadmium by freshwater invertebrates and fish.

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University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, P.O. Box 38, Solomons, Maryland 20688, USA.


Concentrations of mercury (Hg), methylmercury (MMHg), arsenic (As), selenium (Se), and cadmium (Cd) were measured in atmospheric deposition, stream water, and biota in two streams in western Maryland. Overall, concentrations were slightly higher in the water of the lower pH Herrington Creek tributary (HRCT). Bioaccumulation factors were also higher for HRCT compared to Blacklick Run (BLK). MMHg concentrations in biota increased with trophic level and essentially all the Hg was as MMHg in predatory insects and insectivorous/carnivorous fish. Thus, the overall trophic status of the organism was indicated by the %MMHg in its tissues. Levels of As, Se, Cd, and Hg, however, decreased with increasing trophic level. Adsorption of As to the exoskeleton of invertebrates appears to be an important accumulation mechanism. MMHg was distributed evenly throughout crayfish and fish organs, whereas As, Se, Cd, and Hg were found in higher concentrations in detoxifying organs. Concentrations in biota in this study were somewhat elevated compared to other rural sites, but were less than those of point source-contaminated sites. Overall, as atmospheric inputs to the two watersheds were similar, the results of this study show the importance of water chemistry in determining the bioaccumulation of the metals and metalloids into insects. Subsequent transfer to higher trophic levels is related to both the ability of the organisms to depurate and the mode of accumulation, either directly from water or from food.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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