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Effects of uranium mining and milling effluents on juvenile fish bioenergetics, growth and overwinter survival



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To assess potential impacts of effluents from Key Lake and McClean Lake uranium operations on freshwater systems, morphometric (weight, length, condition factor) and biochemical (total body lipids and triglycerides, liver triglycerides, muscle protein, muscle RNA/DNA ratio) measures of growth and bioenergetics were determined in young-of-the-year (YOY) fishes collected in fall and spring. It was predicted that fishes exposed to mining and milling effluents would be in poorer condition relative to fishes from reference sites and that fishes would be depleted in lipids and triglycerides in the spring compared to the previous fall following a northern winter. Various total body lipid and triglyceride measurement methods were initially compared and validated. Lakes receiving effluent at Key Lake (in operation > 20 years) were higher in metals, ions and ammonia compared to exposure sites at McClean Lake (in operation < 10 years). At Key Lake, there were site and season differences in total body lipids and triglycerides in YOY northern pike (Esox lucius) and burbot (Lota lota), with fishes being fattier at exposure sites compared to fishes at the reference site, and fish being fattier in spring relative to fall. A local prey item, spottail shiners (Notropis hudsonius), from an exposure lake were higher in triglycerides compared to shiners from a reference site, suggesting an indirect effect of uranium operation effluent on pike and burbot bioenergetics via food web enrichment. At McClean Lake, there were site and season increases in lipids and triglycerides in burbot from the exposure site, however there were no site differences in any morphometric or biochemical endpoint for northern pike. Slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus) were the only species with lower triglyceride content in the spring following winter. Overall, biochemical measures of growth (muscle protein, muscle RNA/DNA ratio) did not vary with effluent exposure at either uranium operation. Lipids and triglycerides were useful biochemical endpoints that frequently detected site and season differences in fish condition that were not noted with morphometric measures. Site and season differences in fish lipids and triglycerides at sites receiving mining and milling effluents revealed an impact of the uranium operations on indigenous YOY fish condition.



muscle protein, muscle RNA/DNA ratio, triglyceride, lipid, slimy sculpin, burbot, northern pike, overwinter survival, uranium mining and milling effluent exposure



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






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