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North American wetlands releasing mercury

 
nerak
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08/23/2006 10:55 AM
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North American wetlands releasing mercury
Burning Wetlands Unleash Sequestered Mercury In Wake Of Climate Change
Climate change appears to be contributing to the waking of a dangerous sleeping giant in the most northern wetlands of North America – mercury.


Released into the atmosphere most prodigiously with the launching of the industrial age, the toxic element falls back onto Earth, and accumulates particularly in North American wetlands. A Michigan State University researcher working closely with the U.S. Geological Survey finds wildfires, growing more frequent and intense, are unleashing this sequestered mercury at levels up to 15 times greater than originally calculated.

The report, “Wildfires threaten mercury stocks in northern soils,” appears this week in the online edition of Geophysical Research Letters.

“This study makes the point that while peat lands are typically viewed as very wet and stagnant places, they do burn in continental regions, especially late in the season when water tables are depressed,” said Merritt Turetsky, assistant professor of plant biology and fisheries and wildlife at MSU. “When peat lands burn, they can release a huge amount of mercury that overwhelms regional atmospheric emissions. Our study is new in that it looks to the soil record to tell us what happens when peat soil burns, soil that has been like a sponge for mercury for a long time.”

Normal atmospheric conditions naturally carry the mercury emitted from burning fossil fuel and other industry northward, where it eventually settles on land or water surfaces. The cold, wet soils of the boreal forest region in Alaska and northern Canada have been efficient resting places for mercury.

“When we walk across the surface of a peat land, we are standing on many thousands of years of peat accumulation,” Turetsky said. “This type of wetland is actually doing us a service. Peat lands have been storing mercury from the atmosphere since well before and during the Industrial Revolution, locking it in peat where it’s not causing any biological harm, away from the food web.”

In addition to industrial activity, climate change also appears to be disrupting mercury’s cycle. Increasingly, northern wetlands are drying out. Forest fires are burning more frequently, more intensely, and later in the season, which Turetsky believes will make peat lands more vulnerable to fire. In May, Turetsky co-wrote another Geophysical Research Letters paper that documented recent changes in North American fires and suggested that more frequent summer droughts and severe fire weather have increased burn areas.

“We are suggesting that environmental mercury is just like a thermometer. Levels will rise in the atmosphere with climate change, but due to increasing fire activity in the north and not solely due to warming,” said Jennifer Harden, soil scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey and co-author of the study.

In this month’s paper, Turetsky, with co-authors Harden and James Crock of the U.S. Geological Survey; Hans Friedli and Lawrence Radke of the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Mike Flannigan and Nicholas Payne of the Canadian Forest Service, measured the amount of mercury stored in soils and vegetation of forests and peat lands, then used historical burn areas and emission models to estimate how much of that mercury is released to the atmosphere at a regional scale during fires.

The group has spent more than five years studying prescribed burns in addition to natural fires to measure the influence of burning on terrestrial mercury storage. They also have sampled smoke plumes to measure atmospheric mercury levels as fires blaze.

Their findings indicated that drier conditions in northern regions will cause soil to relinquish its hold on hundreds of years of mercury accumulation, sending that mercury back into the air at levels considerably higher than previously realized.

“We’re talking about mercury that has been relatively harmless, trapped in peat for hundreds of years, rapidly being spewed back into the air,” Turetsky said. “Some of it will fall back onto soils. Some will fall into lakes and streams where it could become toxic in food chains.

“Our findings show us that climate change is complex and will contribute to the pollution of food chains that are very far away from us, in remote regions of the north.”

The research was funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Center of Atmospheric Research (supported by the National Science Foundation), and the Electric Power Research Institute. Turetsky’s May paper in Geophysical Research Letters was funded by NASA. Turetsky’s work also is supported by the MSU Michigan Agricultural Research Station. [link to www.sciencedaily.com]
time flies in a linear mind
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 11:08 AM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
It also explains very well how we have effectively poisoned ourselves.
time flies in a linear mind
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 11:35 AM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Soylent Green produced in 1972 on the premise that global warming would destroy our food supply was basicly ignored also. Pretty sad when we ignore ourselves to death. HOT
time flies in a linear mind
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 02:08 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
du and genetic engineering will destroy the food supply before warming has a chance to do it
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 114312

I don't know, but I have a bad feeling that climate change is happening so rapidly that within 3 to 5 years the world may not be able to keep up with current agricultural demand , much less expand it to keep up with growing populations. I do agree that engineered crops will make things worse not better.
time flies in a linear mind
Godot

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08/23/2006 02:09 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Thank you for your posting Nerak.

It is an outrage that we have the ability and the technology to reduce current mercury emisions and posioning produced by coal burning powerplants, and yet we do nothing. When I think about the recent legislation to place tighter restrictions on polluters that was thrown aside in the name of convenience and minor economic advantages... it makes my blood boil.

One day, these purveyors of death, the politicans that allowed this and these CEO's that could have stopped this slow poisoning, they will all be remembered as having commited the most horrific crimes against humanity in human history.
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
Godot

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08/23/2006 02:17 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
A small question for those who care. Why are we allowing the destruction of natural wetlands?

Wetlands are the most precious living resource that this country.... this planet has.
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 02:52 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
A small question for those who care. Why are we allowing the destruction of natural wetlands?

Wetlands are the most precious living resource that this country.... this planet has.
 Quoting: Godot

Thats a complacated question. I think the reason we 'allow' this is because its not even on most peoples radar. We have become so "busy" with day to day problems like having a home we can afford, 2 or 3 cars so everyone can work, and the things our kids 'need" that we just don't take the time to really really look at things like this as a 'problem". We have built ourselves a nice little universe and if the suppernova's don't directly affect our 'planet' we're just not going to worry, even if we know in the back of our mind that someday one may destroy our 'planet". I don't fault people for this, its an ingrained reaction. We deal with what we have to on a day to day basis and this has allow great advances in culture along with great problems. Now the fact is we have so many problems facing us that we might feel helpless to change all the things that have been creeping slowly to a head.
time flies in a linear mind
Godot

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08/23/2006 02:54 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
I hate to see a post sit without getting its deserved attention. With that in mind, I want to offer the attached link to the One Environmental Activist Organization that I currently support. Please check them out -
[link to www.waterkeeper.org]
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 03:00 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Thanks Godot. We can't afford to give up, even if we can only take baby steps.
time flies in a linear mind
Anonymous Coward
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08/23/2006 03:02 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Everyone should quit having babies for a while, like about 20 years. That would solve a lot of problems.
We need mandated sterilization for everyone over 20 years old now.
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 03:05 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Everyone should quit having babies for a while, like about 20 years. That would solve a lot of problems.
We need mandated sterilization for everyone over 20 years old now.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 134030

If we keep poisoning ourselves at the present rate I think nature will give us a hand on the population control issues.
time flies in a linear mind
Godot

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08/23/2006 03:06 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Now the fact is we have so many problems facing us that we might feel helpless to change all the things that have been creeping slowly to a head.
 Quoting: nerak


Yes, I see your point. Environmental activism is a leisure time pursuit for most of us.

Even when we manage to get these issues onto the radar of the avarage voter, (for example, Gores recent film), it still seems many people just don't care.

Another question for you? Do you think you could effectively reach and win the hearts of more people using mass media,(like with Gores film), or do you feel it would be more effective to get opinion leaders into the envionment in the hopes that they will learn and ergo, be able to make a difference and influence things at the grassroots level?
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
nerak (OP)

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08/23/2006 03:41 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
I think its going to take a personal experence for most people to take action. For example the water [ocean} making you sick, like the surfers in Califorma. A extremely large number of birthdefects and sickness like Love Cannal or other toxic dump sites. If government leaders really took the lead, maybe that would help, at least it gives people an oppertunity to try and change things. Education works to a point also. Truely though I think it takes a first hand experence to light the fire under most people.
time flies in a linear mind
Godot

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08/23/2006 03:51 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
Truely though I think it takes a first hand experence to light the fire under most people.
 Quoting: nerak


Right on.
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
Anonymous Coward
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08/23/2006 05:22 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
A small question for those who care. Why are we allowing the destruction of natural wetlands?

Wetlands are the most precious living resource that this country.... this planet has.
 Quoting: Godot




A big question:

If a agricultural producer (farmer) needed wetlands to supply you with food, would it still be precious as a wetland??

Get real, the whole state of Florida and the peninsula of Massachussettes along with te Mississippi Delta are wetlands and people insist on living there
Godot

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08/23/2006 06:57 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
A small question for those who care. Why are we allowing the destruction of natural wetlands?

Wetlands are the most precious living resource that this country.... this planet has.




A big question:

If a agricultural producer (farmer) needed wetlands to supply you with food, would it still be precious as a wetland??

Get real, the whole state of Florida and the peninsula of Massachussettes along with te Mississippi Delta are wetlands and people insist on living there
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 134895



Nothing unreal about the question at all.
Although I must disagree with the point you made: in my experience, acre for acre, striclty from a nourishment standpoint, wetlands have provide me and my fathers with an abundance of life salient to sustanance, far beyond the abilty of a an agricultural producer to farm on a simular acre, and at no cost to me or the environment. (Assuming your a carnivor, trapper, hunter, fisherman or naturalist.)
This is true of both fresh water and salt water marshes and the majority of coastal waters.

This country does have an abundance of farmland, far, far more than it can use. This is why the Fed. subsidizes farmers and land owners not to grow crops. Could we not have the farmer plant in those areas that do not need to be drained or cleared of timber prior to planting.

As to draining swamp land so that a developer can build on a wetland. The simple solution is to bulid in a sustainable nature, without draining wetlands. Its very easy to do... people did it for years before Pulte Homes came along.

Do you see my point?
Yes it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it....
... No, it's not safe, it's very dangerous. Be Careful.
Anonymous Coward
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08/23/2006 09:24 PM
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Re: North American wetlands releasing mercury
ITS A TERRORIST ATTACK
:Fleeing mo:
ISLAMOFASCISTS EVERYWHERE

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