Spatial and Temporal Trends of Mercury Concentrations in Young-of-the-Year Spottail Shiners (Notropis hudsonius) in the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall, ON Journal Articles uri icon

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  • The St. Lawrence River at Cornwall, Ontario is an "Area of Concern" because of mercury (Hg) biomagnification from bottom sediments. To assess the spatial and temporal distribution of Hg in the food web, young-of-the-year (YOY) spottail shiners (Notropis hudsonius) were collected in August 2005 from five sites along the Cornwall waterfront within a Hg-contaminated zone and two reference zones. The results were compared to analyses made between 1979 and 2000 by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Total Hg concentrations in spottail shiners from the contaminated zone were significantly higher than in reference zones, confirming previous observations. Within the contaminated zone, there were significant differences in Hg concentrations among three sites spaced about 500 m apart, consistent with a high degree of site fidelity of YOY fish and suggesting a possible internal source of Hg. Hg concentrations in spottail shiners are decreasing regionally, although year-to-year variability was high, particularly in the contaminated zone. Stable isotope analyses of spottail shiners did not reveal any differences in nitrogen isotope composition among zones that would indicate differences in food-web structure and Hg biomagnification. However, carbon sources at an upstream reference zone were not the same as within the Area of Concern. Differences in carbon isotope composition at two sites within the contaminated zone corresponded to differences in Hg concentrations, consistent with a unique internal source of Hg. The variation in Hg contamination of YOY spottail shiners over fine spatial and temporal scales provide important insights about the potential release of Hg from contaminated sediments and the role of climate in regional trends. Sessile YOY fish provide a precise indicator for demonstrating these differences and for assessing their cause.


  • Choy, Emily
  • Hodson, Peter V
  • Campbell, Linda M
  • Fowlie, Adrienne R
  • Ridal, Jeff

publication date

  • April 2008