Spatial distinction and temporal stability of water microelements in the North Platte River and Lake McConaughy, Nebraska

Garrett Rowles, Melissa R. Wuellner, Keith D. Koupal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Water chemistry can vary spatially and temporally within a riverscape (i.e., reservoir, rivers, and tributaries) due to different surficial geologies, groundwater influences, surrounding land use, habitat type (i.e., reservoir or river), and water residence time. Microelemental signatures may be absorbed by calcified structures of fish and have been used to describe their environmental history. The ability to identify this history depends in part on spatial distinction and temporal stability of those water signatures. The objective of this study was to compare trace concentrations of four elements in water collected at nine locations within the North Platte River (n = 4 sites), one tributary of the river (n = 1 site), and Lake McConaughy (n = 4 sites) in July 2017 and from April to September in 2018 to assess spatial distinction and temporal stability of these microelements. Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry was used to analyze concentrations of Ba:Ca, Mg:Ca, Mn:Ca, and Sr:Ca in each water sample. Spatial distinction and temporal stability of microelements were assessed using a Cochran-Mantel-Haenzel test. A Bonferroni correction was applied to account for multiple comparisons per element. No significant spatial distinction was detected among the nine individual sites (df = 3, p =.05–.72) and plots of elements displayed temporal variability at the tributary site and the North Platte River site below the tributary site. However, when individual sites were classified to habitat type (i.e., “river,” “tributary,” or “reservoir”), all four microelements were found to be spatially distinct (df = 3, p <.01). All elemental ratios except Mg:Ca were found to be temporally stable (df = 3, p =.02–.08). This study identified microelements that were spatially distinct between a river, tributary, and reservoir and temporally stable which will allow for accurate assessment of environmental history of fish using hard-part microchemistry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-43
Number of pages8
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Spatial distinction and temporal stability of water microelements in the North Platte River and Lake McConaughy, Nebraska'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this