The Impact of Mercury in New York State is Focus of Special Issue of Ecotoxicology
A series of multi-year scientific studies that assessed the impact of mercury on air, water, fish and wildlife in New York State has been published in the journal Ecotoxicology, an international journal devoted to presenting critical research on the effects of toxic chemicals on populations, communities and terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems.
This scientific collaboration, funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in 2018 through its Environmental Research Program, has resulted in 22 papers published in the Ecotoxicology’s December 2020 issue as well as two separate papers that were published in the October 2020 issue, which specifically focused on mercury in songbirds.
The Ecotoxicology special issue (Vol. 29, Issue 10, December 2020) is now online and can be found HERE.
Mercury pollution is widespread and knows no borders. Since its inception, BRI has been a leader in research designed to understand the exposure and effects of mercury in ecosystems. Mercury concentrations in fish and wildlife in the United States and across the globe are known to routinely exceed human and wildlife health thresholds.
At present, scientists must rely on limited information to understand and quantify the critical linkages among mercury emissions, deposition, environmental response, and potential wildlife and human health concerns.
BRI is investigating mercury concentrations and associated effects in many species of fish and wildlife around the world. Areas of greater concern, known as biological mercury hotspots, are typically related to aquatic and wetland ecosystems. BRI discovered that the biomagnification of methylmercury in invertivores (e.g., bats and songbirds) is just as great and problematic as in piscivores (e.g., otters and loons).
For an overview booklet about our Center for Mercury Studies, click here.
BRI has worked with partners to examine spatial and temporal trends of mercury accumulation in the environment and biota across New York State. This scientific synthesis of information on mercury in air, water, fish, and wildlife has culminated in a series of 22 papers having been recently published in a special issue of the journal Ecotoxicology. In addition, we have published the communications booklet New York State Mercury Connections which highlights major findings of the collaborative effort.
The Ecotoxicology special issue (Vol. 29, Issue 10, October 2020) is now online and can be found HERE.
Mercury policy development, implementation, and associated monitoring rely on accurate and neutral science to improve certainty. The Center for Mercury Studies strives to meet these scientific requirements through its leading work on the topics and projects below.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Major highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines and the phase-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and regulations for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. BRI is helping countries meet the requirements of the convention through assisting with Minamata Initial Assessments and mercury inventories, reducing mercury use in ASGM practices, and evaluating effectiveness through global mercury biomonitoring.
Mercury Connections is BRI's series of synthesis projects that bring together environmental and biotic mercury data from across North America to better understand spatial and temporal trends in mercury accumulation and deposition. Since 2005, we have conducted four Mercury Connections syntheses, including in Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada, the Great Lakes Region, Western North America, and New York State. Each Mercury Connections synthesis has culminated in a series of scientific publications, as well as a Mercury Connections report, used to inform decision makers and regulators in the critical process of developing and regulating policy.
Sampling broadly throughout the landscape helps biologists identify “hotspots” of contaminant exposure, and sampling annually helps us determine if contaminant levels are changing over time. Such information has proven pivotal in guiding policy decisions to regulate pollutants. Many BRI studies on taxonomic groups and ecosystems include a mercury component:
BRI’s Wildlife Mercury Lab can analyze tissues, such as feather, fur, blood, muscle, liver, talon tips, fish, eggs, and human hair using its Direct Mercury Analyzer for total mercury.
While BRI is focused on compiling and generating new scientific data, contributing to global mercury policy and communicating technical information to decision makers and others are critical components of our approach and philosophy.
To inform policy efforts and advance public understanding, a group of 61 scientists collaborated on producing 15 papers that describe the impacts of mercury on songbirds across the United States and Canada (Cristol and Evers 2020). This publication, The Impact of Mercury on North American Songbirds, highlights the major findings of those studies and collaborative effort.
The 15 scientific papers representing laboratory and field studies are now published in a special issue of the journal Ecotoxicology (October 2020). The papers reflect five general categories of research on mercury in songbirds: (1) effects on health and physiology; (2) temporal trends; (3) landscape variations; (4) bioindicators; and (5) migration.
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