Mercury Bioaccumulation in Fish in New York's Streams and Rivers

Science Center Objects

Background Although New York State has more than 70,000 miles of streams and rivers, little is known about the status, distribution, and trends of mercury (Hg) levels in stream fish, or the environmental drivers of these patterns. Streams and their riparian zones provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and serve as the interface between aquatic and terr...

Background
 
Although New York State has more than 70,000 miles of streams and rivers, little is known about the status, distribution, and trends of mercury (Hg) levels in stream fish, or the environmental drivers of these patterns. Streams and their riparian zones provide critical habitat for fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and serve as the interface between aquatic and terrestrial Hg transfer, transformations (most notably methylation) and bioaccumulation. Importantly, monitoring data from lakes (e.g., Simonin et al. 2006) does not transfer reliably to streams because of fundamental differences in Hg cycling and bioaccumulation processes. An assessment of fish Hg bioaccumulation focused on New York’s streams and rivers will provide information necessary to address human and wildlife Hg exposure, comprehensively monitor Hg bioaccumulation trends, understand the efficacy of Hg emissions policies, and assess the effects of regional, national, and global emissions on Hg-sensitive habitats.

 
Objectives
 
This 3-year project is being conducted by the USGS in cooperation with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The project’s overall goal is to characterize and improve the understanding of Hg bioaccumulation in fish of New York’s streams, and to develop models of tissue concentration to inform the cost-effective monitoring and prediction of Hg-sensitive settings. Project scientists will compile and analyze existing data, and will collect new data from selected streams, to assess fish Hg spatial patterns and trends for streams and rivers across New York State, and to produce an Hg-sensitivity model for the Adirondack region (an area which is known to be particularly sensitive to Hg deposition). This study has the following two major components: 
  • Compile and synthesize existing Statewide Hg data (biota and water) to describe spatial patterns and trends, and develop models of Hg sensitivity (i.e., prone to Hg methylation) that use readily obtained environmental characteristics, and identify optimal monitoring strategies (e.g., sites, frequency) based on these results. 
  • Develop and test a Hg-sensitivity model for Adirondack streams, and explore the use of specific ultraviolet light absorbance as an efficient screening tool, by analyzing existing stream chemistry data from 400 sites sampled in the Western Adirondack and East Central Adirondack stream surveys (Lawrence et al. 2008, NYSERDA, 2012), and by collecting and analyzing fish Hg data and stream water quality from a subset of sites. 

Publications

NYSERDA. 2016. “Mercury in Fish and Macroinvertebrates from New York’s Streams and Rivers: A Compendium of Data Sources,” NYSERDA Report 16-07. Prepared by Karen Riva-Murray and Douglas A. Burns of U.S. Geological Survey, New York Water Science Center. http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/Files/Publications/Research/Environmental/16-07-Mercury-Fish-Macroinvertebrates-NY-Streams-Rivers.pdf

References

Lawrence, G.B., Baldigo, B.P., Roy, K.M., Simonin, H.W., Bode, R.W., Passy, S.I., Capone, S.B., 2008. Results from the 2003-2005 Western Adirondack Stream Survey. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Report 08-22. Albany, NY. 141p. 

NYSERDA, 2012. Assessment of long-term monitoring of nitrogen, sulfur, and mercury deposition and environmental effects in New York State. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Report 12-21. Albany, NY. 152pp. 

Simonin, H.A., Loukmas, J.J., Skinner, L.C., Roy, K.M., 2006. Lake variability: Key factors controlling mercury concentrations in New York State fish. Environmental Pollution 154:107-115.

Project Location
by County

NY Statewide