A geochemical perspective on the natural abundance of trace elements in beaver (Castor canadensis) from a rural region of southern Ontario, Canada.


Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Chalcophile (Ag, Cd, Co, Cu, Mo, Ni, Pb, Se, Tl, Zn) and lithophile (Al, Ba, Ce, Cr, Cs, Fe, La, Li, Mn, Nd, Rb, Sr, V, Y) trace elements (TEs) were determined in kidney, liver and muscle of beaver (Castor canadensis) from a rural watershed in southern Ontario, Canada. To estimate the relative bioavailability of TEs in the landscape, they were also determined in the dissolved (<0.45 μm) fraction of water from the river where the animals were harvested. Concentration ratios (tissue/water) always showed the greatest enrichments for Cd (kidney, 1.1 × 107; liver, 2.4 × 106; muscle, 7.2 × 105), most likely due to the metal binding properties of metallothioneins. Despite its potential toxicity, Tl also showed considerable enrichment: kidney, 4.2 × 104; liver 1.2 × 104; muscle 1.5 × 104. Enrichments of Cs and Rb exceeded those of Tl in all three tissues, suggesting that the chemical similarity of their ionic species (Cs+, Rb+, Tl+) to K+ may be the key to their uptake. Lithophile elements of limited solubility in natural waters (Al, Ce, La, Nd) show moderate enrichments, despite the lack of physiological role. The smallest enrichments were found for Sr and Ba, the two TEs which are most abundant in the river. Of the TEs considered essential for animal nutrition, V was the least enriched in tissue relative to water (liver 19×, kidney, 33× and muscle 28×). Despite the lack of physiological function and absence of any known sources of contamination, Al, Ag, Cd, Ce, Cs, La, Pb, Rb, and Tl, are all enriched in beaver tissue, relative to water, by at least three orders of magnitude, due to natural processes. The widespread abundance of beaver in Canada combined with the growing need to manage their numbers in populated regions offer a unique opportunity for monitoring environmental quality in the riparian zone.