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Study Determines Mercury Exposure Lowering Reproductive Ability in Loons

Loon feeding chicks
Nina Schoch
Loon Feeding Chick

A just released study of mercury in Adirondack loons has found that the contaminant is having an impact on the population of the birds.  

The scientific report: “Long Term Monitoring and Assessment of Mercury...Using the Common Loon...” and a public report "Adirondack Loons - Sentinels of Mercury Pollution In New York’s Aquatic Ecosystems”  confirmed over ten years that  mercury deposition from coal-fired power plants is negatively impacting Adirondack loons.  Biodiversity Research Institute Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation Coordinator Nina Schoch found that the mercury levels in loons affected their reproduction.

Nina Schoch says that’s of concern because loons reflect what’s happening in the aquatic food web.

The study was a joint project of the Biodiversity Institute, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.  NYSERDA Environmental Research Program Project Manager Greg Lampman says they invest in studies like this to help assess potential regulatory shifts from coal-based to renewable energy sources.

Lampman says the Adirondack loon study took a different approach in assessing mercury deposition.

The study also found that high mercury concentrations in loons altered behavior and  affected parenting skills.