Low concentrations of selenium in stream food webs of eastern Canada
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Herbivorous and predatory invertebrates and two species of fish (brook trout and blacknose dace) were collected from 49 streams in New Brunswick, Canada to determine whether concentrations of selenium (Se) in the biota were affected by a point source (a coal-fired power plant), and stream water chemistry (pH, sulphate, conductivity, and total organic carbon), and to determine the trophic transfer of Se through these food webs. Total Se concentrations in the biota were generally low (0.2 to 4.8 μg g(-1) dry weight) across sites and there was no relationship between distance from the coal-fired power plant and Se concentrations in invertebrates or fishes. Water chemistry was an equally poor predictor of Se concentrations in invertebrates and fish. Trophic position (determined using δ(15)N) was a significant predictor of Se concentrations in only five of the stream food webs, and two of these had negative slopes, indicating little or no trophic magnification across most systems; many fishes had lower concentrations than their invertebrate prey and trophic transfer was higher at sites with low invertebrate Se concentrations. Variability in Se concentrations in fishes was explained more by site of capture than microhabitat use within the site (as measured with δ(13)C), suggesting among-site differences in geological sources of Se. Because concentrations were below known toxicity thresholds for fish and other consumers, these results suggest that Se is not an environmental issue in New Brunswick streams that do not receive direct inputs from mining activities.
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