The amount of mercury (Hg) in Arctic lake food webs is, and will continue to be, affected by rapid, ongoing climate change. At warmer temperatures, fish require more energy to sustain growth; changes in their metabolic rates and consuming prey with potentially higher Hg concentrations could result in increased Hg accumulation. To examine the potential implications of climate warming on forage fish Hg accumulation in Arctic lakes, we quantified growth and Hg accumulation in Ninespine Stickleback Pungitius pungitius under different temperature and diet scenarios using bioenergetics models. Four scenarios were considered that examined the role of climate, diet, climate × diet, and climate × diet × elevated prey Hg. As expected, annual fish growth increased with warmer temperatures, but growth rates and Hg accumulation were largely diet dependent. Compared to current growth rates of 0.3 g⋅y−1, fish growth increased at least 200% for fish consuming energy-dense benthic prey and decreased at least 40% for fish consuming pelagic prey. Compared to baseline levels, the Hg burden per kilocalorie of Ninespine Stickleback declined up to 43% with benthic consumption – indicating strong somatic growth dilution – but no more than 4% with pelagic consumption; elevated prey Hg concentrations led to moderate Hg declines in benthic-foraging fish and Hg increases in pelagic-foraging fish. Bioenergetics models demonstrated the complex interaction of water temperature, growth, prey proportions, and prey Hg concentrations that respond to climate change. Further work is needed to resolve mechanisms and rates linking climate change to Hg availability and uptake in Arctic freshwater systems.
|Title||Investigating effects of climate-induced changes in water temperature and diet on mercury concentrations in an Arctic freshwater forage fish|
|Authors||Sarah M. Laske, Samantha M. Burke, Michael P. Carey, Heidi K. Swanson, Christian E. Zimmerman|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Environmental Research|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Alaska Science Center Ecosystems|