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The major and trace element chemistry of fish and lake water within major South African catchments

LJ Jordaan
V Wepener
JM Huizenga


Chemical elements in lake water are incorporated into fish tissues through bioconcentration and biomagnification. Lake water and fish tissue samples from 23 lakes, located within 4 major South African catchments, were analysed to investigate the link between element concentrations in lake water and otolith, fin spine, muscle, liver and gill tissues. The comparison is complicated by the seasonal variation in water chemistry as well as the large natural variation between individual fish within a lake. Comparisons between fish from different lakes can also only be done within the same species, which may not occur within all the lakes within the project area. This may be further complicated by erratic anthropogenic contamination. It is therefore more successful to use inter-element ratios for comparison than absolute element concentrations. Using the Sr/Ca elemental ratio, a species-specific correlation was identified between lake water, otolith, fin spine and gill tissue samples. The best discrimination between fish species was achieved using a Na/Ca versus Mg/Ca elemental ratio diagram of gill tissues. The best discrimination between fish from different lakes was achieved using a Ba/Mg versus Sr/Mg elemental ratio diagram for fin spine tissue.

Keywords: trace elements, water chemistry, fish tissue, elemental ratios, lake water, bioaccumulation

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1816-7950
print ISSN: 0378-4738