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Wetland management and rice farming strategies to decrease methylmercury bioaccumulation and loads from the Cosumnes River Preserve, California

August 14, 2014

We evaluated mercury (Hg) concentrations in caged fish (deployed for 30 days) and water from agricultural wetland (rice fields), managed wetland, slough, and river habitats in the Cosumnes River Preserve, California. We also implemented experimental hydrological regimes on managed wetlands and post-harvest rice straw management techniques on rice fields in order to evaluate potential Best Management Practices to decrease methylmercury bioaccumulation within wetlands and loads to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Total Hg concentrations in caged fish were twice as high in rice fields as in managed wetland, slough, or riverine habitats, including seasonal managed wetlands subjected to identical hydrological regimes. Caged fish Hg concentrations also differed among managed wetland treatments and post-harvest rice straw treatments. Specifically, Hg concentrations in caged fish decreased from inlets to outlets in seasonal managed wetlands with either a single (fall-only) or dual (fall and spring) drawdown and flood-up events, whereas Hg concentrations increased slightly from inlets to outlets in permanent managed wetlands. In rice fields, experimental post-harvest straw management did not decrease Hg concentrations in caged fish. In fact, in fields in which rice straw was chopped and either disked into the soil or baled and removed from the fields, fish Hg concentrations increased from inlets to outlets and were higher than Hg concentrations in fish from rice fields subjected to the more standard post-harvest practice of simply chopping rice straw prior to fall flood-up. Finally, aqueous methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations and export were highly variable, and seasonal trends in particular were often opposite to those of caged fish. Aqueous MeHg concentrations and loads were substantially higher in winter than in summer, whereas caged fish Hg concentrations were relatively low in winter and substantially higher in summer. Together, our results highlight the importance of habitat, seasonal processes, and wetland management practices on Hg cycling and ecological risk in aquatic ecosystems.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Wetland management and rice farming strategies to decrease methylmercury bioaccumulation and loads from the Cosumnes River Preserve, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20141172
Authors Collin A. Eagles-Smith, Joshua T. Ackerman, Jacob Fleck, Lisamarie Windham-Myers, Harry McQuillen, Wes Heim
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2014-1172
Index ID ofr20141172
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center; Western Ecological Research Center