Transfer of mercury and methylmercury along macroinvertebrate food chains in a floodplain lake of the Beni River, Bolivian Amazonia

Carlos Israel Molina, François Marie Gibon, Jean Louis Duprey, Eduardo Dominguez, Jean Remy D. Guimarães, Marc Roulet

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59 Scopus citations


We have evaluated the mercury and methylmercury transfers to and within the macroinvertebrate communities of a floodplain lake of the Beni River basin, Bolivia, during three hydrological seasons and in two habitats (open water and vegetation belt). Using the stable isotopes δ13C and δ15N, six trophic chains were identified during a previous study. Four are based on only one source: seston, organic matter from the bottom sediment, periphyton and macrophytes. Two are based on mixed sources (seston and periphyton in one case, periphyton and macrophytes in the other). During sampling, we found only one taxon that had surface sediment organic matter as food source and very few taxa whose trophic source was constituted by macrophytes. The periphyton was the most important source during all seasons; it produced the longest chain, with three trophic positions. Whatever the season and trophic source, all collected macroinvertebrates contained methyl mercury and the latter was biomagnified in all trophic chains that we identified. The biomagnification of methylmercury through invertebrate trophic chains accurately reflected the existence and length of these chains. Biomagnification was virtually non-existent in the sediment-based chain, low and restricted to the dry season in the macrophyte-based chain. It was significant in the seston-based chain, but limited by the existence of only two trophic levels and restricted to the wet season. Finally, it was very effective in the periphyton-based chain, which offers the highest rate of contamination of the source but, above all, the largest number of trophic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3382-3391
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Macrophytes
  • Periphyton
  • Sediment
  • Seston
  • Trophic chain


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