State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2007ND153B
Title: Mercury accumulation in Chironomus dilutus reared on nutrient-limited food
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/29/2008
Congressional District: 1
Focus Categories: Toxic Substances, Water Quality
Keywords: Mercury accumulation, Nutrient limitation, Benthic organisms, aquatic ecosystem, bioaccumulation of mercury
Principal Investigator: Butler, Malcolm George (North Dakota State University)
Federal Funds: $ 8,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 16,000
Abstract: The accumulation of mercury in aquatic ecosystems is a problem that is exacerbated by anthropogenic influences. Mercury damages the central nervous system of animals, altering the way that nerves conduct electrical impulses and divide, leading to lowered cognitive and mental functioning or, in especially acute circumstances in humans, cerebral palsy, mental retardation or death. The primary conduit through which humans acquire mercury is eating contaminated fish. As of 2002, 48 states in the United States had issued consumption advisories for selected lakes and rivers for concentrations in fish between 0.2-0.5 ppm of mercury while 28 had general statewide advisories. As a result, the United States EPA and various state agencies issue advisories for fish consumption where impairment occurs. The North Dakota Department of Health currently has consumption advisories listed for Devils Lake, Red River, Lake Oahe, Missouri River, Lake Sakakawea, and other waterbodies. Due to the wide-spread dissemination of mercury, its toxicity to humans and wildlife, and its rate of increase, continued research is warranted. Major objective of this proposal is to determine what role nutrient limitation plays in both organismal growth and bioaccumulation of mercury in Chironomus, a model benthic organism, and to evaluate the potential transference of mercury to game fish with bioenergetic models. This research will provide a better understanding of factors contributing to the bioaccumulation of mercury in aquatic ecosystems. Information derived from this study will be made available in dissertation format and through publication in referred journals. Findings will be presented at national scientific conferences including meetings of the North American Benthological Society.

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