Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Record levels of mercury released by thawing permafrost in Canadian Arctic

13.12.2018

Thawing and slumping permafrost in the western Canadian Arctic is releasing unprecedented levels of mercury into waterways.

Permafrost thaw slumps in the western Canadian Arctic are releasing record amounts of mercury into waterways, according to new research by University of Alberta ecologists.


Methyl mercury is being released into environments such as this one, on the Peel Plateau in the Northwest Territories, Canada.

Credit: Scott Zolkos

Mercury is a naturally occuring contaminant that is toxic to humans and other animals in large quantities as it accumulates in organisms and food webs. Sediments in permafrost are estimated to store more mercury than Earth's oceans, atmosphere, and soil combined. And, as climate change causes permafrost to thaw, the mercury stored in permafrost becomes available for release into the surrounding environment.

"Concentrations of mercury were elevated for at least 2.8 kilometres downstream of thaw slumps," says Kyra St. Pierre, Vanier Scholar PhD student, who co-led the study with fellow graduate students Scott Zolkos and Sarah Shakil in the Department of Biological Sciences. "This suggests that some mercury from thaw slumps may be transported for many kilometres through downstream ecosystems, and into larger waterways."

The issue is exacerbated by rising temperatures and increasing precipitation in the Canadian Arctic due to climate change.

"Climate change is inducing widespread permafrost thaw," explained St. Pierre, who conducted the study under the supervision of Assistant Professor Suzanne Tank, and Professor Vincent St. Louis . "In regions where this results in thaw slumping, this may release a substantial amount of mercury into freshwater ecosystems across the Arctic."

However, because the mercury is locked within sediments, the scientists are unsure as to whether this mercury could be consumed by organisms in the area and whether this mercury poses any threat to the security of northern food webs.

These results highlight the need for further research on mercury cycling in regions experiencing active permafrost thaw, as well as studies examining if and how this mercury might enter food webs in surrounding ecosystems.

The research was conducted in partnership between the University of Alberta and the Government of the Northwest Territories in response to Northwest Territories' community interests in the downstream effects of permafrost thaw.

###

The paper, "Unprecedented increases in total and methyl mercury concentrations downstream of retrogressive thaw slumps in the western Canadian Arctic," was published in Environmental Science & Technology (doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b05348).

Media Contact

Katie Willis
katie.willis@ualberta.ca
780-267-0880

 @ualberta

http://www.ualberta.ca 

 

Katie Willis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
https://www.ualberta.ca/science/science-news/2018/december/mercury-permafrost-arctic-climate-change
http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b05348

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How molecules teeter in a laser field
18.01.2019 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

nachricht Discovery of enhanced bone growth could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis
18.01.2019 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Ten-year anniversary of the Neumayer Station III

The scientific and political community alike stress the importance of German Antarctic research

Joint Press Release from the BMBF and AWI

The Antarctic is a frigid continent south of the Antarctic Circle, where researchers are the only inhabitants. Despite the hostile conditions, here the Alfred...

Im Focus: Ultra ultrasound to transform new tech

World first experiments on sensor that may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles

The new sensor - capable of detecting vibrations of living cells - may revolutionise everything from medical devices to unmanned vehicles.

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Additive manufacturing reflects fundamental metallurgical principles to create materials

18.01.2019 | Materials Sciences

How molecules teeter in a laser field

18.01.2019 | Life Sciences

The cytoskeleton of neurons has been found to be involved in Alzheimer's disease

18.01.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>