Linking metal bioaccumulation of aquatic insects to their distribution patterns in a mining-impacted river.
Metal concentrations of the soluble fraction of the cytoplasm (cytosol) and the whole body were determined in the caddisfly Hydropsyche spp. (Trichoptera). Metal accumulation in the cytosol and the whole body were compared in samples collected along 380 kms of a contamination gradient in the Clark Fork river in four consecutive years (1992–1995), and from a contaminated tributary (Flint Creek). Samples from the contaminated sites were compared to an uncontaminated tributary (Blackfoot River). Relations between cytosolic metal concentration and cytosolic protein (used as a general biomarker of protein metabolism) also were examined in 1994 and 1995. Relative to whole body concentrations, cytosolic metal concentrations varied among metals and years. Spatial patterns in whole body and cytosolic Cd, Cu and Pb concentrations were qualitatively similar each year, and these concentrations generally corresponded to contamination levels measured in bed sediments. The proportions of metals recovered in the cytosol of ranged from 12 to 64% for Cd and Cu and from 2 to 38% for Pb. Zinc in the whole body also was consistent with contamination levels, but cytosolic Zn concentrations increased only at the highest whole body Zn concentrations. As a result, the proportion of Zn recovered in the cytosol ranged from 16 to 63% and tended to be inversely related to whole body Zn concentrations. The proportions of cytosolic metals varied significantly among years and, as a result, interannual differences in metal concentrations were greater in the cytosol than in the whole body. The results demonstrated that Hydropsyche in the river were chronically exposed to biologically available metals. Some features of this exposure were not evident from whole body concentrations. In general, protein levels did not correspond to cytosolic metal concentrations. A variety of environmental factors could interact with metal exposures to produce complex responses in protein metabolism. Systematic study will be necessary to differentiate the effects of multiple environmental stressors on organisms living in contaminated ecosystems.