STATES CHRONICLE – Due to global warming, higher mercury levels threaten plankton. Researchers have revealed that warming boosts the levels of toxin in water, affecting sea creatures. After conducting several experiments, they explained that extreme rainfall disperses the amount of organic matter which flows into the sea.
Thus, the food chain is altered, fueling the development of complex organisms which increase the mercury concentrations. The newly developed study was recently published in the Science Advances magazine. It is well-known that mercury is enlisted as one of the most toxic metals. What is more, based on the data provided by the World Health Organization, this metal represents one of the top 10 threats regarding public health.
High levels of mercury were connected with paralysis, impairments of the nervous system and mental damages in infants. The most popular form of exposure to this metal is by consuming fish which may be contaminated with methylmercury. This is an organic form of the chemical compound which can develop when bacteria met the mercury in plants, soil, and water.
Experts argue that since the industrial revolution, higher mercury levels were registered in the global ecosystems, having increased by between 200% and 500%. The levels boosted due to the use of fossil fuels like coal. During recent years, environmentalists have concentrated efforts to try to limit mercury levels which affect the environment. In 2013, an international treaty known as the Minamata Convention was signed by 136 countries.
Nevertheless, the new study developed indicates that climate change could be the cause for the increase of methylmercury levels. Swedish researchers have recreated in a large laboratory the conditions which are encountered in the Bothnian Sea estuary. In this way, they revealed that as temperatures rise, there appears an increased disposal of organic material into the lakes and oceans of the world.
This growth fuels the development of bacteria in the detriment of phytoplankton. Dr. Erik Bjorn, the lead author of the study and a scientist at Umea University in Sweden, stated that they observed that when the layer of bacteria enriched in water, there also appears an increase in a new type of predators which feed on this bacteria.
He explained that there appears an extra step in the food chain is fueling the increase of methylmercury by almost a factor out of ten in every step of the food chain.
Image courtesy of: wikipedia