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Anthropogenic impacts on mercury concentrations and nitrogen and carbon isotope ratios in fish muscle tissue of the Truckee River watershed, Nevada, USA

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Science of the Total Environment, Volume 347, Issue 1-3, p.282-294 (2005)


The lower Truckee River originates at Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada (NV), USA and ends in the terminal water body, Pyramid Lake, NV. The river has minimal anthropogenic inputs of contaminants until it encounters the cities of Reno and Sparks, NV, and receives inflows from Steamboat Creek (SBC). SBC originates at Washoe Lake, NV, where there were approximately six mills that used mercury for gold and silver amalgamation in the late 1800s. Since then, mercury has been distributed down the creek to the Truckee River. In addition, SBC receives agricultural and urban nonpoint source pollution, and treated effluent from the Reno-Sparks water reclamation facility. Fish muscle tissue was collected from different species in SBC and the Truckee River and analyzed for mercury and stable isotopes. Nitrogen (delta(15)N) and carbon (delta(13)C) isotopic values in these tissues provide insight as to fish food resources and help to explain their relative Hg concentrations. Mercury concentrations, and delta(15)N and delta(13)C values in fish muscle from the Truckee River, collected below the SBC confluence, were significantly different than that found in fish collected upstream. Mercury concentrations in fish tissue collected below the confluence for all but three fish sampled were significantly greater (0.1 to 0.65 mu g/g wet wt.) than that measured in the tissue collected above the confluence (0.02 to 0.1 mu g/g). delta(15)N and delta(13)C isotopic values of fish muscle collected from the river below the confluence were higher and lower, respectively, than that measured in fish collected up river, most likely reflecting wastewater inputs. The impact of SBC inputs on muscle tissue isotope values declined down river whereas the impact due to Hg inputs showed the opposite trend. (c) 2004 Elsevier B.V All rights reserved.