Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geosciences

Committee Chair

Johnnie N. Moore

Commitee Members

Heiko Langner, Laurie B. Marczak


biomagnification, food web, mercury, mercuy methylation, wetlands


University of Montana


A number of studies suggest that Hg biomagnification in aquatic systems are dependent on two factors: a source of mercury and the potential for this mercury to become methylated. To compare the importance of these two factors in a riverine system I examine sites with varying sediment total mercury concentrations (source term) and varying environmental conditions affecting mercury methylation (wetland abundance, and riparian abundance) resulting in mercury concentration in three riverine trophic levels (aquatic invertebrates, fish, and osprey). I find that the mercury concentrations of low trophically positioned species, like aquatic invertebrates, are extremely dependent on mercury source concentrations (p=0.0143). While, species in subsequent trophic positions, such as fish see substantial influence from both the source term (p<0.0001) and environmental conditions (wetland abundance, p<0.0001 and riparian abundance, p=0.0008. Top trophic level species, such as osprey, have THg concentrations that are heavily dependent on environmental conditions (wetland abundance p<0.0001 and riparian abundance, p=0.0001) and less on the sediment source of THg (p=.1234). Specifically, for these higher trophic levels, wetland abundance is the most explanatory environmental condition in determining the mercury methylation potential.

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