DV-08-017 Effects of climate change and grass communities on trophic transfer of metals

Dr. Jennifer Dijkstra
342 Laudholm Farm Road

Wells, ME 04090

Mercury is a natural element and toxic metal that has increased in the global environment as a result of human activities. A potent neurotoxin, mercury affects the brain and nervous system in humans, who are exposed primarily through the consumption of contaminated fish. Mercury is a concern in Maine, due to the state’s location downwind of numerous point sources (e.g., coal-fired power plants in the Midwest). How mercury moves through landscape is the subject of intense research of the biomagnification and bioaccumulation of methylmercury in food webs, and how trophic transfer of mercury might be affected by climate change.

Dijkstra found that temperature was higher in enclosed pools than creeks, and that shrimp and fish collected from creeks had higher methylmercury concentrations than those collected from pools, although not at a statistically significant level. Further research is planned in summer 2009 to investigate the relationship between warming of salt marsh pools and the bioaccumulation of mercury in fish, shrimp, amphipods, epiphytes, and sediment. This work will ultimately become part of a larger study of the relationship between mercury, salt marshes, and climate change.

Dijkstra’s project is part of a larger assessment of mercury in northern New England estuaries, including a project site in Penobscot Bay that has also been supported by Sea Grant.

Total: $4,924