Cutting Mercury Emissions Likely to Help Loons Reproduce
New state mercury emissions rules for power plants could have significant benefits for loons.
A Northwoods researcher is hoping to quantify those benefits over the next decade.
Wisconsin DNR Toxicologist Mike Meyer says when loons consume mercury through eating fish, it can inhibit the birds’ reproduction.
“We estimate that about 10 percent of loons in Vilas and Oneida Counties likely have mercury exposure levels that are associated with some impairment to their reproductive performance. It’s not large enough currently to be preventing the population from slowly increasing but it is affecting about ten percent of the population.”
But Meyer says new rules for power plants are supposed to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent in the coming years, potentially as soon as 2016. And that is expected to have a relatively immediate effect on fish and loons.
Meyer’s plan is to collect fish that loons eat, like yellow perch and bluegill, and monitor mercury concentrations for up to ten years following the emissions rule implementation.
“We predict based on studies conducted in Canada, that the fish mercury levels and the loon mercury levels should also fall precipitously once the emissions levels are reduced. We want to see whether that results in the ecological benefits that have been promised.”
Meyer is currently seeking funding for the project proposal.