A new study, led by researchers from the CNRS, the Institut National Polytechnique, Universite Paul Sabatier, and international collaborators shows that Arctic rivers carry large amounts of pollutant mercury to the Arctic Ocean. The findings provide the missing piece of a puzzle that clarifies how mid-latitude anthropogenic mercury emissions have polluted one of the most pristine regions on our planet. Until recently, mercury emissions were thought to reach the Arctic by air, and deposit directly to the Arctic marine ecosystem. The study published in PNAS (26 November, 2018) finds that Arctic rivers deliver more mercury to the Arctic Ocean than atmospheric deposition. The researchers integrated their results into a 3D coupled Ocean-atmosphere model of mercury cycling and find annual net transfer of mercury from the Arctic Ocean to the atmosphere. The new paradigm on arctic mercury cycling provides a solid basis to evaluate how arctic warming will affect mercury exposure to wildlife and humans in the near future.
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