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Factors influencing methylmercury contamination of black bass from California reservoirs

Melwani, Aroon R., Negrey, John, Heim, Wes A., Coale, Kenneth H., Stephenson, Mark D., Davis, Jay A.
Environmental pollution 2019 v.251 pp. 850-861
Micropterus dolomieu, Micropterus salmoides, aquatic ecosystems, aquatic food webs, bass, chlorophyll, forests, land use, mercury, methylmercury compounds, morphometry, muscle tissues, organic carbon, oxygen, pH, sediments, soil, statistical models, statistics, sulfates, surface water, temperature, California
Understanding how mercury (Hg) accumulates in the aquatic food web requires information on the factors driving methylmercury (MeHg) contamination. This paper employs data on MeHg in muscle tissue of three black bass species (Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass, and Smallmouth Bass) sampled from 21 reservoirs in California. During a two-year period, reservoirs were sampled for total Hg in sediment, total Hg and MeHg in water, chlorophyll a, organic carbon, sulfate, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, and temperature. These data, combined with land-use statistics and reservoir morphometry, were used to investigate relationships to size-normalized black bass MeHg concentrations. Significant correlations to black bass MeHg were observed for total Hg in sediment, total Hg and MeHg in surface water, and forested area. A multivariate statistical model predicted Largemouth Bass MeHg as a function of total Hg in sediment, MeHg in surface water, specific conductivity, total Hg in soils, and forested area. Comparison to historical reservoir sediment data suggested there has been no significant decline in sediment total Hg at five northern California reservoirs during the past 20 years. Overall, total Hg in sediment was indicated as the most influential factor associated with black bass MeHg contamination. The results of this study improve understanding of how MeHg varies in California reservoirs and the factors that correlate with fish MeHg contamination.