What is the News?
According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, Greenland’s glacial meltwaters have unusually high levels of mercury.
About the study:
- Researchers from the Florida State University have analyzed the meltwater rivers. These rivers receive substantial amounts of water from the Greenland ice sheet.
- The samples were filtered to remove any sediment and kept safe from contamination. Then the researchers analysed the mercury concentration in each one.
Key Findings of the study:
- Firstly, researchers found high concentrations of mercury in the water bodies fed by the Greenland Ice Sheet.
- Secondly, the mercury level was almost ten times the volume of mercury found in normal rivers.
- Thirdly, the mercury level was also similar to that found in the polluted inland rivers of China.
How did mercury reach the water bodies of Greenland?
- Mercury is a naturally occurring metal found in some rocks. As glaciers slowly flow downhill, the meltwater grinds up the underlying rocks. It results in mixing mercury into the meltwater.
- Hence, the mercury did not end up in the meltwaters from industries or other anthropogenic activities, as is the case with most contaminants.
Significance of this study:
- The findings will change the perception that glaciers have little or no influence on the Earth’s geochemical and biological processes.
- Moreover, there is a concern that large volumes of mercury can reach the coastal food webs through bioaccumulation. It will impact the Arctic ecosystem.
- Bioaccumulation: It refers to the process by which pollutants enter a food chain. Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a rate greater than that at which there is elimination of the substance.
Source: Down To Earth