Effects of habitat on mercury concentrations in fish: a case study of Nile perch (Lates niloticus) in Lake Nabugabo, Uganda

Ecotoxicology. 2016 Jan;25(1):178-91. doi: 10.1007/s10646-015-1578-6. Epub 2015 Oct 31.


This study focused on variation in fish mercury (Hg) concentrations in 185 Nile perch (Lates niloticus) samples collected across four different habitat types in Lake Nabugabo, Uganda, a tropical lake located proximate to Lake Victoria. We quantified the stomach contents of Nile perch using the % index of relative importance, as well as, nitrogen and carbon isotopic concentrations to assess the role of diet and trophic level on Hg concentrations. In each habitat, we also evaluated a suite of chemical and physical characteristics that are commonly associated with variation in Hg bioavailability in temperate systems. Using linear mixed models and ANOVA, we demonstrate that habitat of capture is an important predictor of Hg concentrations in Nile perch from Lake Nabugabo and that the relationship between habitat and Hg is size and diet dependent. Nile perch diet as well as dissolved oxygen concentration and pH were also correlated with observed differences in fish Hg. Overall, Hg concentrations in Nile perch were all well below the WHO/FAO recommended guideline of 500 ng/g (mean 13.6 ± 0.4 ng/g wet weight; range 4.9 and 29.3 ng/g wet weight). This work contributes to a growing awareness of intra-lake divergence in Nile perch, as well as, divergence in Hg concentrations between varying aquatic habitat types, particularly wetlands.

Keywords: Africa; Biomagnification; Contaminants; Freshwater; Wetlands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Lakes / chemistry*
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Perciformes / metabolism*
  • Uganda
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Mercury