In their research, recently published in Geochemical Perspectives Letters, scientists examined mercury reallocation -- the movement from previously frozen soils into the surrounding environments -- north of the Arctic Circle in Abisko, Sweden. They found that as the landscape changes due to warming temperatures, they see a significant increase in the levels of methylmercury, a neurotoxin, that could have a cascade of effects.
"Our research suggests that Arctic wildlife, such as birds and fish, may be at increased risk of exposure to higher levels of methylmercury that could ultimately impact their reproduction and populations," said Florencia Fahnestock, a doctoral candidate in Earth sciences and the lead author of the study. "It also has the potential to impact indigenous people if they are eating methylmercury-contaminated wildlife, and possibly the fishing industry, if the mercury is flushed out of the watershed into the ocean."
Study - Look - Change - Landscapes - Methylmercury
The study took a comprehensive look at how climate change is causing landscapes to transform and therefore favor methylmercury production. They looked at "total mercury" -- all different forms of mercury including solid, gaseous, methyl -- and the way it changes, along with the thawing landscapes, into the more harmful methylmercury. The most toxic form of mercury, it is more readily taken up by animals. Three different landscapes were examined for the evolution of the mercury and microbial communities along these landscapes to determine how these changes occurred. They assessed palsa, or frozen permafrost, the semi-thawed...
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