Fate and trophic transfer of rare earth elements in temperate lake food webs
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofEnvironmental science and technology ; vol. 51, no. 11, pp. 6009-6017.
Many mining projects targeting rare earth elements (REE) are in development in North America, but the background concentrations and trophic transfer of these elements in natural environments have not been well characterized. We sampled abiotic and food web components in 14 Canadian temperate lakes unaffected by mines to assess the natural ecosystem fate of REE. Individual REE and total REE concentrations (sum of individual element concentrations, ΣREE) were strongly related with each other throughout different components of lake food webs. Dissolved organic carbon and dissolved oxygen in the water column, as well as ΣREE in sediments, were identified as potential drivers of aqueous ΣREE. Log10 of median bioaccumulation factors ranged from 1.3, 3.7, 4.0, and 4.4 L/kg (wet weight) for fish muscle, zooplankton, predatory invertebrates, and nonpredatory invertebrates, respectively. [ΣREE] in fish, benthic macroinvertebrates, and zooplankton declined as a function of their trophic position, as determined by functional feeding groups and isotopic signatures of nitrogen (δ15N), indicating that REE were subject to trophic dilution. Low concentrations of REE in freshwater fish muscle compared to their potential invertebrate prey suggest that fish fillet consumption is unlikely to be a significant source of REE to humans in areas unperturbed by mining activities. However, other fish predators (e.g., piscivorous birds and mammals) may accumulate REE from whole fish as they are more concentrated than muscle. Overall, this study provides key information on the baseline concentrations and trophic patterns for REE in freshwater temperate lakes in Quebec, Canada.