The amount of mercury in the ocean due to man-made activities is on the rise, say a team of international researchers.
Their findings, published in the journal Nature, suggest that levels of mercury, a toxic trace metal which accumulates in aquatic organisms, have more than tripled in surface waters and increased by 150% overall in the upper layers of the ocean
Previous estimates of the amount of mercury which has reached the were largely based on model studies.
This new research presents an observation-based estimate of the total amount of mercury present in the global ocean, with almost two-thirds of the mercury residing in water shallower than 1,000 metres.
Carl Lamborg of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the US and colleagues measured mercury levels during several recent expeditions to the Atlantic, Pacific, Southern and Arctic oceans.
The deep North Atlantic waters had the most enriched mercury.
The study may add to our understanding of the processes and the depths at which inorganic mercury is converted into toxic methyl mercury and subsequently incorporated into marine food webs.
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