Seasonal and ontogenetic diet changes in aquatic food webs result in surprising bioaccumulation patterns

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The combined effect of chemical and biological stresses has decimated native wildlife populations in numerous aquatic ecosystems. In the Laurentian Great Lakes, the bioaccumulation of contaminants through these altered food webs has made necessary the institution of widespread fish advisories. Bioaccumulation models used to predict contaminant transfer still employ simplistic trophic descriptions, despite recent efforts to integrate more complete food webs into their design. Here, we develop a detailed food web model of Calumet Harbor, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. We combine stable isotope and stomach contents analyses to formulate a dynamic food web model that we integrate with a bioaccumulation model to predict contaminant fate. This ecosystem presents a unique opportunity to study food web structure, as its low biodiversity allows us to track trophic relationships through both seasonal and ontogenetic changes. We find these shifts in species diets act to increase effective food web complexity, resulting in surprising patterns of contaminant bioaccumulations that are not predicted by traditional food web models. In Calumet Harbor, the smallest fish are the most highly contaminated, and the invasive forage fish, not the top predator, biomagnifies contaminants to the greatest degree.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication05AIChE
Subtitle of host publication2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase, Conference Proceedings
Number of pages1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005
Event05AIChE: 2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase - Cincinnati, OH, United States
Duration: Oct 30 2005Nov 4 2005


Other05AIChE: 2005 AIChE Annual Meeting and Fall Showcase
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCincinnati, OH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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