Biodiversity Research Institute
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Tropical Program
Tropical Program

Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining

BRI's Tropical Program attends the 2014 SMBC meeting in Copan, Honduras

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef mercury study

 

RESEARCH AREAS IN THE TROPICAL PROGRAM
Fish and Human Health
Fish and Human Health
Bats as Indicators of Ecosystem Health
Bats as Indicators of Ecosystem Health
Neotropical Connections
Neotropical Connections
Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining
Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
Mexico
Mexico

The Tropics

The Tropics refer to the equatorial region of Earth that extends across five continents including parts of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia and includes marine ecosystems between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Tropical ecosystems are synonymous with biodiversity. Nearly two-thirds of all known species inhabit these dense rain forests, tropical savannas, coastal mangroves, and rich coral reefs.

Ecosystem Health in the Tropics

The health of tropical ecosystems is being impacted by multiple stressors ranging from deforestation and the degradation of habitats to climate change. The conservation of these ecosystems is one of the greatest ecological challenges the global community will face in the coming decades. BRI and the Tropical Program contribute to this effort through participation in collaborative research and conservation initiatives designed to identify new and emerging stressors and to inform stakeholders and policymakers about our science.

Geographic Focus

Geographic Focus

  • Central America

Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

  • South America

Colombia, Peru

  • Africa

Uganda, Ghana

BRI’s Tropical Program is involved in a wide variety of research and conservation initiatives intended to improve our understanding of how environmental contaminants impact ecosystem and human health in the tropics. Many of these initiatives are interdisciplinary in nature and include collaborators from national agencies within tropical countries as well as local and international conservation organizations. Several BRI programs including the Songbirds, Mammal, and Wetland Programs contribute to these efforts.

Fish and Human Health

Fish and Human Health

Fish consumption is the primary pathway through which humans become exposed to mercury. Many national and international health organizations recognize the risks associated with a diet high in fish and international guidelines for the maximum amount of Hg in fish have been established. BRI's Tropical Program works with local researchers in multiple countries to identify 'hotspots' of mercury accumulation where mercury concentrations represent a risk to human and ecosystem health.

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Bats as Indicators of Ecosystem Health

Bats as Indicators of Ecosystem Health

Bats represent a significant component of mammalian diversity in the tropics, with approximately 1200 species currently known. Our research with tropical bats incorporates traditional ecological approaches for understanding population and community composition as well as ecotoxicology and exploring the utility of bats as bioindicators of heavy metal contamination in tropical ecosystems. BRI currently coordinates a network of Neotropical researchers that focus on collecting and analyzing tissue samples for mercury concentrations to better understand the risks of exposure in a variety of species across multiple ecosystems.

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Neotropical Connections

Neotropical Connections

Mercury is a global pollutant that has potential to adversely affect hundreds of bird species across the western hemisphere. For species that migrate to Central and South America, this means that individuals may encounter mercury contamination on their breeding grounds, along migratory routes, and on their wintering grounds. BRI is working with local bird researchers in Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua to assess the risk of mercury exposure in neotropical migratory songbirds.

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Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining

Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is responsible for an estimated 727 tonnes per year of mercury emissions to the atmosphere with an additional 800 tonnes per year of mercury releases to land and water, making in the largest anthropogenic source of mercury. The ASGM sector employs an estimated 10-15 million people in more than 70 countries world-wide. BRI's Tropical Program is working with international development organizations, mining engineers, and conservation organizations to develop strategies for reducing the use of mercury by small-scale miners.

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Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

The Mesoamerican Reef is the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere and extends more than 1000 km along the coastlines of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. In previous research, BRI and collaborating scientists documented high mercury concentrations in marine fishes. Current research focuses on measuring fish mercury concentrations sampled from the region’s major watersheds in an effort to identify potential terrestrial sources of mercury that are delivered to the coastal zone and out onto the reef.

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Mexico

Mexico

Mexico straddles the Tropic of Cancer and is considered a 'megadiverse' nation by the United Nations Environment Programme. BRI's work in Mexico utilizes our capacity to assess mercury in the environment to assist local governments with identifying species and ecosystems at risk of mercury exposure. In addition, BRI is active in marine conservation efforts focusing on plastics pollution and the human and ecosystem risks associated with plastic debris.

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Program Director
David Buck, Ph.D.
david.buck@briloon.org
207-838-7600 ext. 245

Adjunct Staff

Tropical Bat Biologist
Tim Divoll, M.S.
tim.divoll@briloon.org

Fisheries Ecologist
Sofia de la Sota, M.S.
sofia.delasota@briloon.org

Tropical Ecologist
Anjali Kumar; Ph.D.
askumar@mit.edu

Artisanal Mining Engineer
Paul Cordy, Ph.D.
paulcordy@gmail.com

Mexico Program
H. Bruce Rinker, Ph.D.
bruce.rinker@briloon.org

 

 

Biodiversity Research Institute