Mercury in swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) from wetland habitats in Wisconsin

  • Strom S
  • Brady R
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Wetlands play a major role in the export of methylmercury (MeHg) to a watershed. The large contribution of wetlands to watersheds in northern Wisconsin, coupled with the acidic environment of this area, makes these habitats especially vulnerable to mercury (Hg) accumulation by biota. The purpose of this study was to compare Hg accumulation between northern Wisconsin wetlands and southern Wisconsin wetlands using the swamp sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) as a representative species. The swamp sparrow was selected as a representative passerine species in which to examine Hg in these habitats, because during their breeding season, they feed at a higher trophic level than many of their counterparts. During the breeding seasons of 2007 and 2008, blood samples were collected from swamp sparrows inhabiting wetlands in both northern and southern Wisconsin and analyzed for total Hg. The mean concentration of total Hg in swamp sparrows from northern wetlands was 0.135 ± 0.064 μg/ml while the mean concentration of total Hg in swamp sparrows from southern wetlands was 0.187 ± 0.106 μg/ml. Results revealed no significant difference (P = 0.17) between Hg accumulation in swamp sparrows from less-acidic wetlands in southern Wisconsin and Hg in swamp sparrows from acidic wetlands in northern Wisconsin. The results are contrary to those observed in other species such as common loon, tree swallow and river otter where higher accumulation has been observed in individuals from acidic habitats. Reasons for the lack of this accumulation pattern in swamp sparrows are unclear and warrant further study.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Mercury
  • Swamp sparrow
  • Wetlands
  • Wisconsin

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  • Sean M. Strom

  • Ryan S. Brady

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