BRI’s concept for Mercury Connections provides a model that fosters research collaboration among distinguished scientists across various disciplines and regions, as well as land-use managers, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions. The research, however, is only part of the story. BRI is also committed to bringing our scientific findings to the forefront of public awareness. The Mercury Connections reports are an important and necessary tool for decision makers and regulators in the critical process of developing and regulating policy.
BRI continues its efforts to assess environmental mercury deposition across North America in a new initiative for the western region of the continent. With insight and experience gained from the two previous synthesis efforts, researchers will collect state, provincial, and federal measurements of mercury in biota, air, water, and soil to better understand spatial and temporal trends in mercury accumulation and deposition in western regions of the United States and Canada, as well as in areas of Mexico.
In addition to better understanding the spatial and temporal trends of mercury in western North America, this effort will focus on the unique ecosystems and indicator species found in the west compared to the Northeast and Great Lakes. BRI researchers, in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, will examine the potential impact of changing climates and water regimes on mercury accumulation and methylation, the interaction with other elements (selenium), and the potential risk faced by humans and wildlife that consume mercury in fish.
In its largest regional mercury study, a study that encompassed the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world, BRI collaborated with the Great Lakes Commission and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to compile a wide variety of mercury data. In this three-year study (from 2008-2011), 170 scientists and managers compiled and evaluated more than 300,000 mercury measurements. The primary results of this research initiative have been published in 35 scientific papers in the journals Ecotoxicology and Environmental Pollution and provide a comprehensive overview of the sources, cycling, and impacts of mercury in the Great Lakes region. A summary of the research is presented in the report, Great Lakes Mercury Connections: The Extent and Effects of Mercury Pollution in the Great Lakes Region.
The Great Lakes mercury research builds on a landmark study carried out over a four-year period (from 2001-2005) for which BRI and Environment Canada led a comprehensive effort to compile mercury data from across the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. As a result of that effort, 21 scientific papers were published in a special issue of Ecotoxicology and summarized in BRI’s report, Mercury Connections: The Extent and Effects of Mercury Pollution in Northeastern North America.
This groundbreaking research highlighted the broad extent and serious effects of mercury across the landscape, the need to expand the view of the problem to include forest ecosystems, the occurrence of biological hotspots in sensitive environments, and the demand for enhanced mercury monitoring.
The collection of data from this project will feed into the National Mercury Monitoring Program (MercNet), adding to the more than 350,000 fish measurements already housed in the MercNet database.