- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
To understand the impact reduced mercury (Hg) loading and invasive species have had on methylmercury bioaccumulation in predator fish of Lake Michigan, we reconstructed bioaccumulation trends from a fish archive (1978 to 2012). By measuring fish Hg stable isotope ratios, we related temporal changes in Hg concentrations to varying Hg sources. Additionally, dietary tracers were necessary to identify food web influences. Through combined Hg, C, and N stable isotopic analyses, we were able to differentiate between a shift in Hg sources to fish and periods when energetic transitions (from dreissenid mussels) led to the assimilation of contrasting Hg pools (2000 to present). In the late 1980s, lake trout δ 202 Hg increased (0.4‰) from regulatory reductions in regional Hg emissions. After 2000, C and N isotopes ratios revealed altered food web pathways, resulting in a benthic energetic shift and changes to Hg bioaccumulation. Continued increases in δ 202 Hg indicate fish are responding to several United States mercury emission mitigation strategies that were initiated circa 1990 and continued through the 2011 promulgation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule. Unlike archives of sediments, this fish archive tracks Hg sources susceptible to bioaccumulation in Great Lakes fisheries. Analysis reveals that trends in fish Hg concentrations can be substantially affected by shifts in trophic structure and dietary preferences initiated by invasive species in the Great Lakes. This does not diminish the benefits of declining emissions over this period, as fish Hg concentrations would have been higher without these actions.more » « less
BACKGROUND The availability of nitrogen (N) to plants and microbes has a major influence on the structure and function of ecosystems. Because N is an essential component of plant proteins, low N availability constrains the growth of plants and herbivores. To increase N availability, humans apply large amounts of fertilizer to agricultural systems. Losses from these systems, combined with atmospheric deposition of fossil fuel combustion products, introduce copious quantities of reactive N into ecosystems. The negative consequences of these anthropogenic N inputs—such as ecosystem eutrophication and reductions in terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity—are well documented. Yet although N availability is increasing in many locations, reactive N inputs are not evenly distributed globally. Furthermore, experiments and theory also suggest that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO 2 , rising temperatures, and altered precipitation and disturbance regimes can reduce the availability of N to plants and microbes in many terrestrial ecosystems. This can occur through increases in biotic demand for N or reductions in its supply to organisms. Reductions in N availability can be observed via several metrics, including lowered nitrogen concentrations ([N]) and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) in plant tissue, reduced rates of N mineralization, and reduced terrestrial N export to aquatic systems. However, a comprehensive synthesis of N availability metrics, outside of experimental settings and capable of revealing large-scale trends, has not yet been carried out. ADVANCES A growing body of observations confirms that N availability is declining in many nonagricultural ecosystems worldwide. Studies have demonstrated declining wood δ 15 N in forests across the continental US, declining foliar [N] in European forests, declining foliar [N] and δ 15 N in North American grasslands, and declining [N] in pollen from the US and southern Canada. This evidence is consistent with observed global-scale declines in foliar δ 15 N and [N] since 1980. Long-term monitoring of soil-based N availability indicators in unmanipulated systems is rare. However, forest studies in the northeast US have demonstrated decades-long decreases in soil N cycling and N exports to air and water, even in the face of elevated atmospheric N deposition. Collectively, these studies suggest a sustained decline in N availability across a range of terrestrial ecosystems, dating at least as far back as the early 20th century. Elevated atmospheric CO 2 levels are likely a main driver of declines in N availability. Terrestrial plants are now uniformly exposed to ~50% more of this essential resource than they were just 150 years ago, and experimentally exposing plants to elevated CO 2 often reduces foliar [N] as well as plant-available soil N. In addition, globally-rising temperatures may raise soil N supply in some systems but may also increase N losses and lead to lower foliar [N]. Changes in other ecosystem drivers—such as local climate patterns, N deposition rates, and disturbance regimes—individually affect smaller areas but may have important cumulative effects on global N availability. OUTLOOK Given the importance of N to ecosystem functioning, a decline in available N is likely to have far-reaching consequences. Reduced N availability likely constrains the response of plants to elevated CO 2 and the ability of ecosystems to sequester carbon. Because herbivore growth and reproduction scale with protein intake, declining foliar [N] may be contributing to widely reported declines in insect populations and may be negatively affecting the growth of grazing livestock and herbivorous wild mammals. Spatial and temporal patterns in N availability are not yet fully understood, particularly outside of Europe and North America. Developments in remote sensing, accompanied by additional historical reconstructions of N availability from tree rings, herbarium specimens, and sediments, will show how N availability trajectories vary among ecosystems. Such assessment and monitoring efforts need to be complemented by further experimental and theoretical investigations into the causes of declining N availability, its implications for global carbon sequestration, and how its effects propagate through food webs. Responses will need to involve reducing N demand via lowering atmospheric CO 2 concentrations, and/or increasing N supply. Successfully mitigating and adapting to declining N availability will require a broader understanding that this phenomenon is occurring alongside the more widely recognized issue of anthropogenic eutrophication. Intercalibration of isotopic records from leaves, tree rings, and lake sediments suggests that N availability in many terrestrial ecosystems has steadily declined since the beginning of the industrial era. Reductions in N availability may affect many aspects of ecosystem functioning, including carbon sequestration and herbivore nutrition. Shaded areas indicate 80% prediction intervals; marker size is proportional to the number of measurements in each annual mean. Isotope data: (tree ring) K. K. McLauchlan et al. , Sci. Rep. 7 , 7856 (2017); (lake sediment) G. W. Holtgrieve et al. , Science 334 , 1545–1548 (2011); (foliar) J. M. Craine et al. , Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2 , 1735–1744 (2018)more » « less
Plastic is pervasive in modern economies and ecosystems. Freshwater fish ingest microplastics (i.e., particles <5 mm), but no studies have examined historical patterns of their microplastic consumption. Measuring the patterns of microplastic pollution in the past is critical for predicting future trends and for understanding the relationship between plastics in fish and the environment. We measured microplastics in digestive tissues of specimens collected from the years 1900–2017 and preserved in museum collections. We collected new fish specimens in 2018, along with water and sediment samples. We selected four species:
Micropterus salmoides(largemouth bass), Notropis stramineus(sand shiner), Ictalurus punctatus(channel catfish), and Neogobius melanostomus(round goby) because each was well represented in museum collections, are locally abundant, and collected from urban habitats. For each individual, we dissected the digestive tissue from esophagus to anus, subjected tissue to peroxide oxidation, examined particles under a dissecting microscope, and used Raman spectroscopy to characterize the particles' chemical composition. No microplastics were detected in any fish prior to 1950. From mid‐century to 2018, microplastic concentrations showed a significant increase when data from all fish were considered together. All detected particles were fibers, and represented plastic polymers (e.g., polyester) along with mixtures of natural and synthetic textiles. For the specimens collected in 2018, microplastics in fish and sediment showed similar patterns across study sites, while water column microplastics showed no differences among locations. Overall, plastic pollution in common freshwater fish species is increasing and pervasive across individuals and species, and is likely related to changes in environmental concentrations. Museum specimens are an overlooked source for assessing historical patterns of microplastic pollution, and for predicting future trends in freshwater fish, thereby helping to sustain the health of commercial and recreational fisheries worldwide.
Anthropogenic warming of marine systems has caused biological and physiological responses that are fundamentally altering ecosystem structure. Because estuaries exist at the land‐ocean interface, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of ocean warming as they can undergo rapid biogeochemical and hydrological shifts due to climate and land‐use change. We explored how multiple components of estuarine fish diversity—turnover, richness, and abundance—have changed in the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico estuaries across space and time and the drivers of change.
North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
We compiled long‐term (>30 years), continent‐wide fisheries independent trawl surveys conducted in estuaries—from the Gulf of Maine to the Gulf of Mexico (U.S. waters)—and combined these with climate and land‐use‐land‐cover data to examine trends and ecological drivers of fish richness, abundance and turnover using mixed‐effect models.
Species richness, abundance and turnover have increased in North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico estuaries in the last 30 years. These changes were mediated largely by sea‐surface temperature anomalies, especially in more northern estuaries where warming has been relatively pronounced.
The increasing trajectory of turnover in many estuaries suggests that fish communities have changed fundamentally from the baselines. A fundamental change in community composition can lead to an irreversible trophic imbalance or alternative stable states among other outcomes. Thus, predicting how shifting community structures might influence food webs, ecosystem stability, and human resource use remain a pertinent task.
Mercury (Hg) is an environmental toxicant dangerous to human health and the environment. Its anthropogenic emissions are regulated by global, regional, and local policies. Here, we investigate Hg sources in the coastal city of Boston, the third largest metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States. With a median of 1.37 ng m −3 , atmospheric Hg concentrations measured from August 2017 to April 2019 were at the low end of the range reported in the Northern Hemisphere and in the range reported at North American rural sites. Despite relatively low ambient Hg concentrations, we estimate anthropogenic emissions to be 3–7 times higher than in current emission inventories using a measurement-model framework, suggesting an underestimation of small point and/or nonpoint emissions. We also test the hypothesis that a legacy Hg source from the ocean contributes to atmospheric Hg concentrations in the study area; legacy emissions (recycling of previously deposited Hg) account for ∼60% of Hg emitted annually worldwide (and much of this recycling takes place through the oceans). We find that elevated concentrations observed during easterly oceanic winds can be fully explained by low wind speeds and recirculating air allowing for accumulation of land-based emissions. This study suggests that the influence of nonpoint land-based emissions may be comparable in size to point sources in some regions and highlights the benefits of further top-down studies in other areas.more » « less