High Mercury level Found in Rivers linked to Greenland’s Glacial Meltwaters

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


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