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A case study: Temporal trends of environmental stressors and reproductive health of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) from a site in the Potomac River Watershed, Maryland, USA

December 1, 2022

Decades of poor reproductive success and young-of-the-year survival, combined with adult mortality events, have led to a decline in the smallmouth bass (SMB; Micropterus dolomieu) population in sections of the Potomac River. Previous studies have identified numerous biologic and environmental stressors associated with negative effects on SMB health. To better understand the impact of these stressors, this study was conducted at the confluence of Antietam Creek and the Potomac River from 2013 to 2019 to identify temporal changes associated with SMB reproductive health. Surface water samples were collected and analyzed for over 300 organic contaminants, including pesticides, phytoestrogens, pharmaceuticals, hormones and total estrogenicity (E2Eq). Adult SMB were collected and sampled for multiple endpoints, including gene transcripts associated with reproduction (molecular), histopathology (cellular), and organosomatic indices (tissue). In males, biomarkers of estrogenic endocrine disruption, including testicular oocytes (TO) and plasma vitellogenin (Vtg) were assessed. Numerous agriculture-related contaminants or land use patterns were associated with gene transcript abundance in both male and female SMB. Positive associations between pesticides in the immediate catchment with TO severity and E2Eq with plasma Vtg in males were identified. In males, the prevalence of TO and detectable levels of plasma Vtg, liver vitellogenin transcripts (vtg) and testis vtg were high throughout the study. Peaks of complex mixtures of numerous contaminants occurred during the spring/early summer when spawning and early development occurs and to a lesser extent in fall/winter during recrudescence. Management practices to reduce exposure during these critical and sensitive periods may enhance reproductive health of these economically important sportfishes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title A case study: Temporal trends of environmental stressors and reproductive health of smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) from a site in the Potomac River Watershed, Maryland, USA
DOI 10.1007/s10646-022-02605-8
Authors Heather L. Walsh, Stephanie Gordon, Adam J. Sperry, Michael Kashiwagi, John E. Mullican, Vicki S. Blazer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecotoxicology
Index ID 70238765
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center