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Temporal trends of mercury levels in fish (dab, Limanda limanda) and sediment from the German Bight (North Sea) in the period 1995-2020

As a toxic and harmful global pollutant, mercury (Hg) enters the marine environment through natural sources, and human activities. It bioaccumulates through the food chain and therefore, Hg is of great importance for environmental monitoring. This study aims to answer the question if Hg contamination in fish and sediment from the German Bight follows temporal trends. Therefore, 496 individual female dab (Limanda limanda) were analyzed. The Hg concentrations in the muscle of dab from the German Bight showed significant increase in function of time with an annual percental change of 1.4%, leading to a 41% increase in Hg contamination level within 25 years of monitoring. At the same time, Hg concentrations in sediment—analyzed in 86 samples—significantly decreased in the nearby North Sea environment. This surprising contradiction is shown in the present study and possible causes are discussed. It could be clearly shown that contamination in sediment and biota can follow completely different time courses and therefore, different environmental matrices should be considered in future monitoring studies. Age of the fish turned out to be a biological factor of particular importance for temporal trend analysis.



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