Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Mercury distribution in sediments and uptake into an aquatic food web at Cottage Grove Reservoir, Oregon Public Deposited

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  • The Cottage Grove Reservoir has been impacted by a point source (Black Butte Mine), where mercury mining and processing has occurred within its watershed from the 1890's to the late 1960's. Total mercury concentrations in surface sediments transect samples, core samples, tributary samples, and representative food web species were measured in 2002. Mercury stratigraphy in reservoir sediment cores and tributary surficial sediments from 2002 and 1995 (unpublished data) were compared and contrasted, core dating was performed to estimate sediment deposition rates and long-term trends for mercury accumulation, and mercury contamination in low trophic levels was assessed. Mercury concentrations in tributary stream sediments strongly correlate with its upstream or downstream proximity to the mine. Current results strongly suggest that the mine area is a continuing source of mercury to downstream tributaries with a strong concentration gradient from the area of the mine to the headwaters of the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. Mercury concentrations in surface sediment transects gradually increase from locations near the inlet to the dam, suggesting an increased mercury deposition rate as suspended solids approach the dam. Sediment cores from both time periods were collected from the deepest most stable region of the reservoir which is likely to have the highest sediment accumulation rates. Mercury concentrations from both cores increase from the surface to the bottom of the core. Core dating results indicate that approximately 40 years lapsed before mercury input to the reservoir stabilized and mercury input has remained relatively stable over the last 20 years. In an aquatic foodweb, methylmercury is the most important form of mercury because it is highly bioavailable for uptake into aquatic organisms. Bioaccumulation of mercury into aquatic organisms can occur through multiple pathways including uptake from sediment arid water, through the skin or cuticle, ventilation of gills, or consumption of contaminated sediment or prey. Biomagnification of methylmercury occurs at successively higher trophic levels of a foodweb. Total mercury concentrations were measured in organisms representative three trophic levels including benthic invertebrates, omnivorous/herbivorous amphibians and fish, and piscivorous fish. Mercury concentrations measured in benthic invertebrates (concentrations ranged from 0.035 mg/kg to 0.075 mg/kg wet-weight) and omnivorous/herbivorous amphibians and fish (concentrations ranged from less than 0.02 mg/kg to 0.043 mg/kg wet-weight) suggest little biomagnification has occurred at these trophic levels. Mercury concentrations in epaxial muscle of largemouth bass (concentrations ranged from 0.86 mg/kg to 1.6 mg/kg wet-weight) are at levels of concern for human health, and fish consumption advisories are posted at the Reservoir. Food web results indicate that significant biomagnification is occurring at higher trophic levels within the foodweb. Current studies suggest that elevated mercury concentrations in largemouth bass are strongly linked to the life history characteristics of the fish.
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