Research shows mercury may biomagnify more effectively in northern regions

Nov 12, 2013 by Rosie Hales

Mercury biomagnification rates in aquatic Arctic ecosystems are higher than in lower latitudes, says a new study from Queen's researcher Raphael Lavoie.

Mercury is passed along through food webs in all ecosystems through a process called . This process results in increasing concentration of substances like in an organism at successively higher levels in a food chain.

But this new study expands what we know about biomagnification by showing that colder temperatures contribute to higher rates of biomagnification in Arctic food chains.

"High Arctic ecosystems are already affected by global changes. When contaminants from human activity end up in the Arctic, they tend to stay there," says Mr. Lavoie. "Mercury will always biomagnify, but we've found that depending on the latitude, the degree of biomagnification will vary."

Low temperatures mean slower metabolism and slower growth rate for Arctic marine life. As growth rate of organisms in this area is reduced, their bodies contain higher mercury concentrations than in areas with warmer temperatures where is accelerated.

"Our study indicates that fragile may be more at risk from than ecosystems in other parts of the world," says Mr. Lavoie. "In addition, arctic food webs may be slower to respond to current efforts to reduce mercury pollution. Our study highlights the need for consistent data collection and collaboration to monitor mercury in food webs across the globe."

While mercury is produced naturally by volcanoes and forest fires, global mercury production have increased hugely because of human activities such as coal burning and artisanal gold extraction.

Data was collected from over 7000 tissue samples in 205 aquatic across 31 countries and oceans. Results from 69 different studies worldwide were collected and homogenized by Mr. Lavoie and his team to create the first comprehensive study of mercury biomagnification trends.

Explore further: Warmer oceans could raise mercury levels in fish

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warmer oceans could raise mercury levels in fish

Oct 03, 2013

Rising ocean surface temperatures caused by climate change could make fish accumulate more mercury, increasing the health risk to people who eat seafood, Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues report ...

Research reveals new challenges for mercury cleanup

Aug 06, 2013

More forms of mercury can be converted to deadly methylmercury than previously thought, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Geoscience. The discovery provides scientists with another piece of the ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.