Hidden Risk: Mercury in Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Northeast

New Scientific Report Shows High Levels of Mercury in Many Wildlife Species

Hidden Risk

Mercury accumulation, previously considered a risk for aquatic ecosystems, is also found in many wildlife species living on the land. This new scientific data is presented in a new report published by BRI in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

Hidden Risk: Mercury in Terrestrial Systems of the Northeast highlights BRI’s scientific findings on high levels of mercury contamination in songbirds and bats throughout 11 northeastern states.

Mercury is a pollutant that is cause for concern at local, regional, and global scales. While areas of high contamination (known as biological mercury hotspots) may occur near mercury-emitting sources, often they do not. Because mercury released into the atmosphere can circle the world before being deposited, wildlife living in habitats located far from point sources of mercury can still be at risk. Although great strides have been made to reduce mercury released into the air and water from human activities, the Hidden Risk report illustrates that high levels of mercury persist in many wildlife species distributed across many habitat types.

Background

The human health effects of mercury contamination are well documented; adverse effects include impacts on cardiovascular health, IQ, workplace productivity, and motor control (Fig. p4). Similarly, mercury negatively affects wildlife populations by hindering behavior and reproduction (Fig. p5). Past investigations have emphasized adverse impacts to fish-eating wildlife, such as common loons, bald eagles, and river otters. In this report, we synthesize current research and document elevated mercury concentrations in a new group of animals—terrestrial invertivores—that until now has largely been ignored in mercury investigations. We show that mercury concentrations in this animal group are significant enough to cause physiological and reproductive harm, creating a major paradigm shift in ecotoxicological research, assessment, monitoring, management, and policy.

Major Findings

Through greater understanding of both the extent of wildlife exposure and harmful impacts to ecosystem health, it is now clear that increased conservation efforts are necessary to reduce this neurotoxin in our environment for the benefit of wildlife and people.

Hidden Risk in the News

Feb 12, 2013
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: deborah

BRI research is featured in the March issue of Discover Magazine.

Apr 18, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin

BRI executive director, David Evers, published an editorial in the March issue of Science Chronicles. He collaborated on this piece with Tim Tear, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy in New York, and David Higby, director of federal government relations for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

Mar 20, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin

BRI’s recent reports: Great Lakes Mercury Connections and Hidden Risk are featured in an article by Sam Inglot in the online magazine Great Lakes Echo

Feb 8, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin

An environmental chain reaction

Mercury is getting into a wide range of birds from global pollution
By Derrick Z. Jackson |  GLOBE COLUMNIST

Click here for entire article

Jan 31, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin
Jan 24, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin

Study: Mercury Contamination Harming Birds and Bats

Reported By: Susan Sharon

A new report by the Gorham-based Biodiversity Research Institute and the Nature Conservancy finds high levels of mercury contamination in songbirds and bats throughout 11 Northeastern states. While the risk of the pollutant to people is well documented through the consumption of fish, this study finds that mercury concentrations in a wide-ranging number of birds and bats are enough to cause physiological and reproductive harm. And it's expected to cause a shift in ecotoxicological research and monitoring.

Click here to listen to the piece.

Jan 24, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin
Jan 24, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin
Jan 23, 2012
Category: Hidden Risk
Posted by: admin

Mercury’s Harmful Reach Has Grown, Study Suggests

By ANTHONY DePALMA

Songbirds and bats suffer some of the same types of neurological disorders from mercury as humans and especially children do, says the study, “Hidden Risk,” by the Biodiversity Research Institute, a nonprofit organization in Gorham, Me., that investigates emerging environmental threats.

Click here to view the entire article.

Biodiversity Research Institute The Nature Conservancy

To obtain a copy of the white paper (Osborne et al. 2011), which summarizes all the data collected,
contact Allyson Jackson (allyson.jackson@briloon.org).