Over the past decade, research by BRI staff and our collaborators has shown that Bald Eagles in Maine and other states in the Northeastern U.S. are exposed to high levels of mercury through their diet. Researchers in New York State have documented elevated levels of mercury in air, fish, and wildlife throughout New York State, particularly in New York’s Catskill region. However, questions remained about exposure in Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles sit at the top of the food web, and as a result, they tend to accumulate contaminants like mercury if the toxin is present in the aquatic environment.
This study revealed contaminant risks for Bald Eagles throughout the state; we determined that Bald Eagles nesting in the Catskill region of New York State had elevated mercury levels. Findings from this research support growing concerns that the Catskill region is a “biological mercury hotspot” —a region associated with elevated concerns for mercury exposure and impacts.
Other findings include:
Efforts to document contaminant exposure and evaluate risks to wildlife are a prerequisite step in informing the general public, environmental agencies, and decision makers about environmental concerns that have potential to impact wildlife and ecosystem health. This research helped demonstrate a need for continued efforts to document mercury exposure in other wildlife throughout New York State, particularly in the Catskills region of New York State. The resulting accumulation of fish and wildlife research has helped promote a need for more comprehensive mercury monitoring in this and other regions where mercury contamination may be of concern to wildlife.
DeSorbo, C. R., P. Nye, J. J. Loukmas, and D. C. Evers. 2008. Assessing mercury exposure and spatial patterns in adult and nestling bald eagles in New York State, with an emphasis on the Catskill region. Report no. 2007-09 submitted to The Nature Conservancy, New York State.
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