Mercury link

Ice cover controls mercury degradation

Published: Monday 28 February 2011

MERCURY levels in the flora and fauna can be linked to the amount of ice cover present. Mercury levels in Alaska have been recorded for 20 years. A new study tracks the amounts of the metal by analysing mercury isotopes. The researchers studied eggs of a sea-bird murre.

They found the eggs in the northern nesting areas where sea ice exists all year long had lower amounts of isotopes than the eggs collected from southern Alaska where there is no ice cover.

The researchers in their study published in the January 21 issue of Nature Geoscience concluded that ice prevents UV light from reaching the mercury, suppressing photodegradation of the metal. With global warming projected to dramatically reduce Arctic ice, exposure to mercury may increase.

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