Controls of Methylmercury Bioaccumulation in Forest Floor Food Webs

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Martin Tsz-Ki Tsui, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Compared to the extensive research on aquatic ecosystems, very little is known about the sources and trophic transfer of methylmercury (MeHg) in terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we examine energy flow and trophic structure using stable carbon (d13C) and nitrogen (d15N) isotope ratios, respectively, and MeHg levels in basal resources and terrestrial invertebrates from four temperate forest ecosystems. We show that MeHg levels in biota increased significantly (p < 0.01) with d13C and d15N at all sites, implying the importance of both microbially processed diets (with increased d13C) and trophic level (with increased d15N) at which organisms feed, on MeHg levels in forest floor biota. The trophic magnification slopes of MeHg (defined as the slope of log10MeHg vs d15N) for these forest floor food webs (0.20–0.28) were not significantly different (p > 0.05) from those observed for diverse temperate freshwater systems (0.24 ± 0.07; n = 78), demonstrating for the first time the nearly equivalent efficiencies with which MeHg moves up the food chain in these contrasting ecosystem types. Our results suggest that in situ production of MeHg within the forest floor and efficient biomagnification both elevate MeHg levels in carnivorous invertebrates in temperate forests, which can contribute to significant bioaccumulation of this neurotoxin in terrestrial apex predators.

Additional Information

Environmental Science & Technology 53 (5), 2434-2440. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b0605
Language: English
Date: 2019
forest food webs, methylmercury, forest ecosystems, bioaccumulation

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