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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Dec 4;46(23):12952-9. doi: 10.1021/es303434p. Epub 2012 Nov 16.

Mercury biomagnification in marine zooplankton food webs in Hudson Bay.

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Centre for Earth Observation Sciences (CEOS), Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2N2.


While much research has been carried out on mercury in large marine mammals and associated food webs in northern regions, comparatively less has been conducted on lower trophic levels including zooplankton and the subsequent transfer to predators, which marks the entry of mercury into northern marine food webs. We present here the first database for mercury uptake and transfer exclusively within zooplankton food webs in northern marine waters. We have investigated both total (THg) and monomethylmercury (MMHg) concentrations, and isotopic signatures (δ(15)N and δ(13)C) in individual zooplankton taxa collected over a period of eight years (2003-2010) from across Hudson Bay (including Hudson Strait and Foxe Basin) as part of research icebreaker cruises. δ(15)N values ranged from 3.4 to 14.0‰, implying trophic levels ranging from 1 to 4, and THg concentrations ranged from 5 to 242 ng g(-1) dw. Food web linkages were identified within the data set, and mercury biomagnification was evident both with THg and MMHg concentrations increasing from prey to predator, and with trophic magnification factors (TMFs). Total mercury and MMHg transfer in a unique prey-predator linkage (Limacina helicina-Clione limacina) are investigated and discussed with regard to known physiological and biochemical characteristics. The results suggest that exposure to mercury at higher trophic levels including humans can be affected by processes at the bottom of Arctic marine food webs.

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