Effects of Selenium on Mercury Bioaccumulation in a Terrestrial food Chain from an Abandoned Mercury Mining Region

  • Guangle QiuEmail author
  • Kasun S. Abeysinghe
  • Xiao-Dong Yang
  • Zhidong Xu
  • Xiaohang Xu
  • Kang Luo
  • Eben Goodale


Few reports of the relationship exist between mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) from locations of severe Hg contamination in terrestrial environments. Here, we report the concentrations of Hg and Se as well as Se:Hg molar ratios in biotic samples collected from a region with a long history of Hg mining. Nitrogen isotopes (δ15N) were analyzed to confirm the trophic levels. Results showed that bird feathers at the top trophic level exhibited the highest Hg concentrations, while the lowest concentrations were found in herbivorous insects, demonstrating a significant biomagnification across the food chain. In contrast, herbivorous insects of different types (generalists vs. specialized rice pests) exhibited both the highest and the lowest concentrations of Se, indicating a lack of biomagnification. Indeed, Se was correlated positively with Hg when Se:Hg ratios were greater than one, suggesting Se:Hg molar ratios can be a controlling influence on Hg in terrestrial organisms.


Mercury Selenium Interaction effects Terrestrial food chain 



Financial support was provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC: 41573135).

Supplementary material

128_2019_2542_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (31 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 31 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical GardenChinese Academy of SciencesMenglaChina
  4. 4.Guangxi Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Conservation, College of ForestryGuangxi UniversityNanningChina

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