Can wetland water-management influence mercury bioaccumulation in songbirds and ducks at National Wildlife Refuges with mercury problems?

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During summer 2017, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) initiated a collaborative research study focused on understanding if water-level management of wetlands at refuges can influence mercury bioaccumulation in wetland-dependent migratory birds.  Birds are susceptible to the effects of mercury and can serve as indicators of contamination in ecosystems. We examined mercury concentrations of songbirds and waterfowl using 7 different management units at Kellys Slough National Wildlife Refuge near Grand Forks, North Dakota. A mercury hotspot had previously been reported in this area; our work is designed to investigate the potential that 4 different water management regimes can influence mercury bioaccumulation. Preliminary analysis indicates that wetland management regime has profound implications for mercury bioaccumulation in migratory birds. We view this work as a case study which we wish to replicate in other public lands where mercury contamination is a concern. Ultimately, this work could have implications for water-level management of wetlands on public lands in areas where mercury may be a concern.