The Arctic may have been saved by the fall of the Soviet Union. An intercontinental research team, which was made up of individuals from the United States, Russia and Canada have astonished the scientific world with revealing just such a theory. They have toppled earlier assumptions that high levels of mercury in both the European Arctic and North America meant those same levels would also be found near the top of the world. However, the team learned that mercury concentrations in fish are very much lower than what was expected in most of the Arctic and that the economic deterioration of the former Soviet Union just might be responsible.
Leandro Castello, who is an assistant professor of fish and wildlife at the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech, stated that it may be that the financial decline of the former Soviet Union, which went belly up back in 1991, appears to have been good for the Arctic environment over on that side of the world. Castello is also one of the lead authors of a research study which has been recently published in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.
The majority of mercury in the atmosphere comes from ore processing and mining. This is what a United Nations Environmental Program study says. Under particular water conditions, mercury is changed over to a certain type which is then absorbed by living creatures such as fish.
Since the Industrial Revolution occurred, atmospheric mercury started to rise in North America and Europe until the 1970’s. After that, it started to slack off due to emissions controls. Now Asia leads the world in mercury levels in the atmosphere.
The researchers compared mercury points in fish from 20 different locations near the Pasvik River along the Russian-Norwegian border and also near the Mackenzie River in Canada. This was where studies had discovered precariously high levels of mercury, which made its fish not safe for human ingestion.
The team found that certain fish in two Russian rivers, the Mezen and the Lena, were actually safe to consume. Mercury levels from fish found in the Mezen were lower than in nine other locations, but still higher than in many places in North America.
According to the research studies, metallurgic manufacturing in the Murmansk area of Russia and casting operations in the Pasvik watershed help to explain the high levels of mercury in the atmosphere in the Pasvik River. Yet on the other hand, the steady decrease in economic procedures leading up to and after the termination of the former Soviet Union, along with the major amount of pollution reduction sources all around the divides of the Mezen and the Rivers, help to account for the lower mercury levels found in the immediate area.
Castello added that a lot more research would have to be done up inside the Russian Arctic so examiners could better comprehend how mercury has been moving through such a type of setting. It was certainly a great surprise to find this up in that part of the world. So the fall of the Soviet Union may just have saved the Arctic after all.
By Kimberly Ruble