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Increase in Mercury Level Leading to Drastic Decline in Arctic Foxes: Research

Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research unveiled that foxes in the Arctic region were exposed to higher levels of mercury.

May 7, 2013 16:37 IST
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Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in the month of May 2013 unveiled that foxes in the Arctic region who fed on ocean prey were exposed to higher levels of mercury. In the time duration of 100 years, the mercury levels of oceans of the world have doubled, as per the United Nations. Most of the mercury deposits take place in Arctic than other parts of Earth.

The Arctic Council described that an increase of ten times has been observed in mercury levels in top most region of the Earth in past 150 years.

On Mednyi, the Russian island, it was found that the foxes survived exclusively on the sea birds as well as some seal carcasses. The fox population of this island decreased drastically in 1970s. Although the population of foxes is stable, but they are still in poor condition or have very low body weight. IUCN lists them as critically endangered species.

Lead author of the research Dr Gabor Czirjak explained that they believed infection to be the cause of shrinking number of foxes, but it wasn’t found. However, when the hair samples of the foxes as well as the animals on which they fed, were examined, it was found that there was a significant rate of mercury in it.

When the Russian foxes were compared with the Arctic foxes, very different results were found. The foxes in the Arctic had comparatively lower level of poison in the body. These results would be of a great help for conservation of foxes in the Arctic.

The research raised some of the important questions regarding how accumulation of mercury was taking place in marine food chain in Arctic region.

It is worth noticing that global efforts were undertaken to control a boost in the mercury level earlier in 2013 when over 140 countries of the world agreed signing legally binding treaty for curbing the mercury pollution.

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