Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists find mercury threatens next generation of loons

A long-term study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the BioDiversity Research Institute, and other organizations has found and confirmed that environmental mercury—much of which comes from human-generated emissions—is impacting both the health and reproductive success of common loons in the Northeast.

The results of the 18-year study on loons—a species symbolic of northern lakes and wilderness—appear in the most recent edition of Ecotoxicology.

“This study demonstrates how top predators such as common loons can be used as the proverbial ‘canaries-in-the-coalmine’ for pollutants that concern humans as well,” said David C. Evers of the BioDiversity Research Institute and lead author of the study. “Our findings can be used to facilitate national and global decisions for regulating mercury emissions from coal-burning plants and other sources.”

The study uses data from nearly 5,500 samples of blood, feathers, and eggs collected from captured and released loons from some 80 lakes in Maine, New York, New Hampshire, and other states and provinces. The researchers made correlations between the behaviors of individual birds and their levels of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury that accumulates up the food chain.

Loons with high levels of mercury—about 16 percent of the adult population in the study area—were found to spend some 14 percent less time at the nest than normally behaving birds. Unattended nests have a higher rate of failure due to either chilling of the eggs or predation by minks, otters, raccoons and other egg robbers.

With behavioral observations from 1,529 loon territories between 1996 and 2005, researchers found that loon pairs with elevated mercury levels also produced 41 percent fewer fledged young than loons in lakes relatively free of mercury. Other behavioral impacts due to elevated mercury were sluggishness, resulting in decreased foraging for fish by the adults for both themselves and for chicks.

In addition to behavior, the concentration of mercury in loons has physiological impacts as well.

Researchers found that loons with high mercury loads have unevenly sized flight feathers. Birds with wing asymmetries of more than 5 percent must expend 20 percent more energy than normal birds to fly, a deficiency that may impact their ability to migrate and maintain a breeding territory.

“This study confirms what we’ve long suspected—mercury from human activities such as coal-burning power plants—is having a significant negative impact on the environment and the health of its most charismatic denizens, and potentially, to humans, too,” said Nina Schoch of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Adirondack Program. “Thus, it becomes even more urgent for the EPA to propose effective national regulations for mercury emissions from power plants that are based on sound science.”

Although many northeastern states have implemented stringent mercury emission rules, a nationwide regulation has yet to be passed. The U.S. District Court of Appeals recently struck down the EPA’s proposed Cap-and-Trade Rule for mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, which would have led to localized “hotspots” of mercury, a highly toxic pollutant. “The ecological impacts of mercury identified in this study illustrate the need for comprehensive, national regulations to limit mercury emissions,” added Schoch.

John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>