LHASA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Melting glaciers on the Tibet Plateau may lead to increased mercury runoff from soil, which could in turn cause pollution downstream, Chinese researchers said.
Mercury is a toxic element. Melting of glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China has affected mercury discharge, said Zhang Qianggong, researcher with the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of Chinese Academy of Sciences, in the January edition of Environmental Pollution, a British journal.
Zhang and fellow researchers studied samples from the Zhadang glacier at the Qugaqie Basin on the Tibetan Plateau.
Glaciers, particularly alpine glaciers, have been receding globally at an accelerated rate in recent decades. Concern is growing about the release of pollutants such as mercury due to melting glaciers as well as the potential effects on the atmosphere and glacier-fed eco-systems, Zhang said.
Data collected from the Qugaqie Basin show that within the basin, there is only a small amount of mercury runoff from the soil, but there is a remarkably high amount of mercury passing through the basin. This shows melting alpine glaciers have a significant impact on the discharge of mercury, Zhang said.
Alpine glaciers are sensitive to climate change and are close to human settlements, Zhang said. Melting glaciers can directly impact water safety and water resources, he added.