Biotransport of Organic Pollutants to an Inland Alaska Lake by Migrating Sockeye Salmon (<i>Oncorhynchus nerka</i>)

  • Göran Ewald
  • Per Larsson
  • Henric Linge
  • Lennart Okla
  • Nicole Szarzi
Keywords: biotransport, Pacific salmon, Oncorhynchus nerka, arctic grayling, Thymallus arcticus, organic pollutants, PCB, DDT, lipids, Copper River, Alaska

Abstract

Persistent organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide DDT, known to harm wildlife, have been shown to reach pristine Subarctic and Arctic areas by global atmospheric transport. Another transport route for pollutant entry into these ecosystems is provided by migrating salmon. Pollutant transport was studied in a population of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) in the Copper River, Alaska during their 410 km spawning mighration. Pollutants accumulated by the salmon during their ocean life stage were not eliminated during migration, but were transported to the spawning lakes and accumulated in the freshwater food web there. The influence of the biotransported pollutants was investigated by comparing pollutant levels and compositions in atmospheric deposition as well in two different populations of arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus). One grayling population was in the salmon spawning lake and the other in a nearby lake not hosting anadromous fish, but receiving pollutants only via atmospheric deposition. The grayling in the salmon spawning lake were found to have concentrations of organic pollutants more than two times higher than those of the grayling in the salmon-free lake, and the pollutant composition resembled that found in salmon. Thus, in the studied Alaska river system, biotransport was found to have a far greater influence than atmospheric input on the PCB and DDT levels in lake biota.

Published
1998-01-01