Distribution and trends of mercury in aquatic and terrestrial biota of New York, USA: a synthesis of 50 years of research and monitoring

Evan M. Adams, Julia E. Gulka, Yang Yang, Mark E.H. Burton, Douglas A. Burns, Valerie Buxton, Lisa Cleckner, Christopher R. DeSorbo, Charles T. Driscoll, David C. Evers, Nicholas Fisher, Oksana Lane, Huiting Mao, Karen Riva-Murray, Geoffrey Millard, N. Roxanna Razavi, Wayne Richter, Amy K. Sauer, Nina Schoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mercury (Hg) inputs have particularly impacted the northeastern United States due to its proximity to anthropogenic emissions sources and abundant habitats that efficiently convert inorganic Hg into methylmercury. Intensive research and monitoring efforts over the past 50 years in New York State, USA, have informed the assessment of the extent and impacts of Hg exposure on fishes and wildlife. By synthesizing Hg data statewide, this study quantified temporal trends of Hg exposure, spatiotemporal patterns of risk, the role that habitat and Hg deposition play in producing spatial patterns of Hg exposure in fish and other wildlife, and the effectiveness of current monitoring approaches in describing Hg trends. Most temporal trends were stable, but we found significant declines in Hg exposure over time in some long-sampled fish. The Adirondack Mountains and Long Island showed the greatest number of aquatic and terrestrial species with elevated Hg concentrations, reflecting an unequal distribution of exposure risk to fauna across the state. Persistent hotspots were detected for aquatic species in central New York and the Adirondack Mountains. Elevated Hg concentrations were associated with open water, forests, and rural, developed habitats for aquatic species, and open water and forested habitats for terrestrial species. Areas of consistently elevated Hg were found in areas driven by atmospheric and local Hg inputs, and habitat played a significant role in translating those inputs into biotic exposure. Continued long-term monitoring will be important in evaluating how these patterns continue to change in the face of changing land cover, climate, and Hg emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)959-976
Number of pages18
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Aquatic and terrestrial food webs
  • Data synthesis
  • Land cover
  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury
  • Monitoring methods
  • Spatiotemporal patterns

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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