Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013NJ343B

Bioaccumulation of mercury in New Jersey aquatic ecosystems

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2014-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $10,001

Principal Investigators: Natalie Sherwood, Meiyin Wu

Abstract: Mercury contamination in aquatic food webs poses a significant threat to aquatic ecosystem health. Mercury’s capability to bioaccumulate and biomagnify in aquatic ecosystems is of special concern. Therefore it is important to determine bioaccumulation and biomagnification factors. This study will examine the mercury concentration in a fish and turtles at several distinct habitats throughout New Jersey that vary in the levels of mercury contamination. The snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) and Diamondback terrapin were chosen as the simplified representative. These species were chosen based on their ability to bioaccumulate and biomagnify mercury. For this reason, turtles are often used as bioindicators of habitat health. Turtles are also often harvested for human consumption, furthering the importance of understanding the food web dynamics occurring. Fish consumption is the main source of mercury concentration found in humans. Therefore, fish samples will be taken from two trophic levels, primary consumers and secondary consumers. Mercury analysis will be carried out using a cold vapor spectrophotometer. The results of this study will allow us to understand if and how mercury contamination can affect and be transferred throughout the aquatic food web in varying habitats. The analysis of mercury concentration among the different trophic levels will allow us to gain further understanding of the health of the aquatic food web leading to consumption by humans.