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Sci Total Environ. 2019 Oct 15;687:907-916. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.094. Epub 2019 Jun 7.

Effects of temperature, salinity, and sediment organic carbon on methylmercury bioaccumulation in an estuarine amphipod.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, United States.
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, United States.
Department of Biomedical Data Science, Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, United States; Department of Mathematics, Dartmouth College, NH 03755, United States.
Department of Earth Science, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, United States.


Mercury (Hg) is a global contaminant that poses a human health risk in its organic form, methylmercury (MeHg), through consumption of fish and fishery products. Bioaccumulation of Hg in the aquatic environment is controlled by a number of factors expected to be altered by climate change. We examined the individual and combined effects of temperature, sediment organic carbon, and salinity on the bioaccumulation of MeHg in an estuarine amphipod, Leptocheirus plumulosus, when exposed to sediment from two locations in the Gulf of Maine (Kittery and Bass Harbor) that contained different levels of MeHg and organic carbon. Higher temperatures and lower organic carbon levels individually increased uptake of MeHg by L. plumulosus as measured by the biota-sediment accumulation factor (BSAF), while the effect of salinity on BSAF differed by sediment source. Multi-factor statistical modeling using all data revealed a significant interaction between temperature and organic carbon for both sediments, in which increased temperature had a negative effect on BSAF at the lowest carbon levels and a positive effect at higher levels. Our results suggest that increased temperature and carbon loading, of a magnitude expected as a result from climate change, could be associated with a net decrease in amphipod BSAF of 50 to 71%, depending on sediment characteristics. While these are only first-order projections, our results indicate that the future fate of MeHg in marine food webs is likely to depend on a number of factors beyond Hg loading.


Bioaccumulation; Estuary; Leptocheirus plumulosus; Multi-factor models; Ocean warming

[Available on 2020-10-15]

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