Toxic Mercury Accumulates in Arctic
Both atmospheric forces and the flow of circumpolar rivers carry mercury, a toxic element, north into the Arctic Ocean new research indicates. While the atmospheric source was previously recognized, it now appears that twice as much mercury actually comes from the rivers. The revelation implies that concentrations of the toxin may further increase as climate change continues to modify the region’s hydrological cycle and release mercury from warming Arctic soils.
“The Arctic is a unique environment because it’s so remote from most anthropogenic (human-influenced) sources of mercury, yet we know that the concentrations of mercury in Arctic marine mammals are among the highest in the world,” said Jenny Fisher, a Harvard University researcher who was a part of the study published recently in the journal Nature Geoscience. “This is dangerous to both marine life and humans. The question from a scientific standpoint is: Where does that mercury come from?”