A National-Scale Assessment of Mercury Bioaccumulation in United 2 States National Parks Using Dragonfly Larvae As Biosentinels 3 through a Citizen-Science Framework

Authors: Collin A Eagles-Smith; J J Willaker; S J Nelson; C M Flanagan; D P Krabbenhoft; C Y Chen; J T Ackerman; Evan HC Grant; David S Pilliod
Contribution Number: 753

ABSTRACT: We conducted a national-scale assessment of mercury (Hg) bioaccumulation in aquatic ecosystems using dragonfly
larvae as biosentinels by developing a citizen-science network to facilitate biological sampling. Implementing a carefully designed
sampling methodology for citizen scientists, we developed an effective framework for a landscape-level inquiry that might otherwise
be resource limited. We assessed the variation in dragonfly Hg concentrations across >450 sites spanning 100 United States National
Park Service units and examined intrinsic and extrinsic factors associated with the variation in Hg concentrations. Mercury
concentrations ranged between 10.4 and 1411 ng/g of dry weight across sites and varied among habitat types. Dragonfly total Hg
(THg) concentrations were up to 1.8-fold higher in lotic habitats than in lentic habitats and 37% higher in waterbodies, with
abundant wetlands along their margins than those without wetlands. Mercury concentrations in dragonflies differed among families
but were correlated (R2 > 0.80) with each other, enabling adjustment to a consistent family to facilitate spatial comparisons among
sampling units. Dragonfly THg concentrations were positively correlated with THg in both fish and amphibians from the same
locations, indicating that dragonfly larvae are effective indicators of Hg bioavailability in aquatic food webs. Collectively, this
continental-scale study demonstrates the utility of dragonfly larvae for estimating the potential mercury risk to fish and wildlife in
aquatic ecosystems and provides a framework for engaging citizen science as a component of landscape Hg monitoring programs.

Publication details
Published Date:
Outlet/Publisher: Environmental Science and Technology
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ARMI Organizational Units:
Northeast - Biology
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