Factors influencing changes in mercury concentrations in lake water and yellow perch (Perca flavescens) in Adirondack lakes

Jason A. Dittman, Charles T. Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Over the past 20+ years, fish with elevated concentrations of mercury (Hg) have been observed in remote lake districts, including the Adirondack region of New York. Across eastern North America studies have also reported a negative correlation between fish Hg concentration and lake pH. Recent controls in emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) have resulted in some improvement in the acid-base status of acid-impacted surface waters including Adirondack lakes. In addition, there has been an apparent decrease in atmospheric Hg deposition. A synoptic survey of 25 lakes in the Adirondacks was conducted in 1992-1993 to analyze spatial patterns of Hg in the water column and yellow perch (Perca flavescens). The same cluster of 25 lakes was resurveyed in 2005-2006 to evaluate if changes in lake concentrations of Hg species or fish Hg have occurred. We observed a varied response of changes in water chemistry and fish Hg concentrations. In twelve of the resurveyed lakes the yellow perch had lower Hg concentrations, six lakes had yellow perch with higher Hg concentrations, and in seven lakes yellow perch Hg concentrations did not change significantly (α = 0.05). Four variables appear to influence the change in yellow perch Hg concentrations in the Adirondacks: watershed area, elevation, change in pH, and change in fish body condition. We hypothesize that as the acidity in lakes is attenuated, the lakes may become more productive and/or water quality conditions less stressful to fish leading to increasing fish body condition. As fish body condition improves, fish exhibit "growth dilution" of tissue contaminants leading to lower fish Hg concentrations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-196
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Adirondack lakes
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Mercury
  • Yellow perch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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