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科学美国人60秒:用蜻蜓做污染探测器

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Using Dragonflies as Contamination Detectors

用蜻蜓做污染探测器

Mercury pollution from power plants and mining operations can end up in our air and water.

发电厂和采矿作业产生的汞污染最终会进入我们的空气和水中。

But it’s tricky to predict just how much of that environmental mercury will make its way into our food—and our bodies.

但很难预测环境中的汞会有多少进入我们的食物和我们的身体。

“We were working on developing a bioindicator, a biosentinel, that could inform us of the levels of mercury contamination across the U.S.”

“我们正在开发一种生物指示剂,这是一种生物前哨素,它可以告诉我们美国汞污染的程度。”

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Ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith of the United States Geological Survey. He and his colleagues came up with a practical way to determine the scope of mercury contamination in an ecosystem by measuring mercury levels in a single species. Their bioindicator: juvenile dragonflies, or larvae. Dragonfly larvae stay underwater, don’t move much, are easy to collect and live long enough to accumulate significant amounts of mercury.

美国地质调查局的生态学家科林·伊格尔斯·史密斯。他和同事想出了一种实用的方法,通过测量单一物种的汞含量来确定生态系统中汞污染的范围。它们的生物指示剂:幼年蜻蜓,或幼虫。蜻蜓幼虫待在水下,不怎么移动,很容易收集,寿命长到足以积累大量的汞。

“If you have enough locations sampled with dragonflies, you can develop an index of the relative amount of mercury in the biological community.”

“如果你在足够多的地方用蜻蜓取样,你就可以建立一个生物群落中汞相对含量的指数。”

The team measured mercury concentrations in thousands of dragonfly larvae collected from waterways in 100 national parks during a 10-year period. And to amass the large sample number, they recruited volunteers through the Dragonfly Mercury Project.

研究小组在10年的时间里测量了从100个国家公园的水道中收集的数千只蜻蜓幼虫的汞浓度。为了积累大量的样本,他们通过蜻蜓水星项目招募了志愿者。

The volunteers used dip nets to collect dragonfly larvae from their aquatic abodes. National park staff then sent the larvae to laboratories for processing. For comparison, the researchers also measured mercury concentrations in other aquatic organisms.

志愿者们用浸网从蜻蜓的水生住所收集幼虫。国家公园的工作人员随后将这些幼虫送往实验室进行加工。为了进行比较,研究人员还测量了其他水生生物中的汞浓度

“Using the relationships between dragonfly concentrations and fish concentrations, we were able to develop what we call an impairment index.”

“利用蜻蜓浓度和鱼类浓度之间的关系,我们能够开发出所谓的损害指数。”

That index allowed the researchers to make health risk predictions at each sample site.

该指数使研究人员能够对每个样本点的健康风险做出预测。

“About 12 percent of the locations posed what we consider to be high or severe risk of health impairments to fish, wildlife or humans if they consumed organisms from those locations. You can begin to build models that are predictive of how much mercury might be in a system and then apply that model to locations where you haven’t sampled dragonflies.

“我们认为,如果食用来自这些地区的生物,大约12%的地区会对鱼类、野生动物或人类的健康构成高或严重风险。你可以开始建立模型来预测一个系统中可能有多少汞然后把这个模型应用到没有取样蜻蜓的地方。

“And that can inform future management actions either to address the factors that are promoting the mercury production or simply to inform agencies that may want to evaluate whether or not fish consumption advisories are warranted.”

“这可以为未来的管理行动提供信息,要么解决促进汞生产的因素,要么简单地向可能想要评估鱼类消费建议是否有必要的机构提供信息。”

The study is in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.

这项研究发表在《环境科学与技术杂志》上。

If you’d like to get involved in the Dragonfly Mercury Project or to see a map of mercury concentrations across the U.S., search for the Dragonfly Mercury Project at nps.gov.

如果你想参与蜻蜓水星计划或者想看美国汞浓度的地图,可以在nps.gov上搜索蜻蜓水星计划。

Using Dragonflies as Contamination Detectors

Mercury pollution from power plants and mining operations can end up in our air and water.

But it’s tricky to predict just how much of that environmental mercury will make its way into our food—and our bodies.

“We were working on developing a bioindicator, a biosentinel, that could inform us of the levels of mercury contamination across the U.S.”

Ecologist Collin Eagles-Smith of the United States Geological Survey. He and his colleagues came up with a practical way to determine the scope of mercury contamination in an ecosystem by measuring mercury levels in a single species. Their bioindicator: juvenile dragonflies, or larvae. Dragonfly larvae stay underwater, don’t move much, are easy to collect and live long enough to accumulate significant amounts of mercury.

“If you have enough locations sampled with dragonflies, you can develop an index of the relative amount of mercury in the biological community.”

The team measured mercury concentrations in thousands of dragonfly larvae collected from waterways in 100 national parks during a 10-year period. And to amass the large sample number, they recruited volunteers through the Dragonfly Mercury Project.

The volunteers used dip nets to collect dragonfly larvae from their aquatic abodes. National park staff then sent the larvae to laboratories for processing. For comparison, the researchers also measured mercury concentrations in other aquatic organisms.

“Using the relationships between dragonfly concentrations and fish concentrations, we were able to develop what we call an impairment index.”

That index allowed the researchers to make health risk predictions at each sample site.

“About 12 percent of the locations posed what we consider to be high or severe risk of health impairments to fish, wildlife or humans if they consumed organisms from those locations. You can begin to build models that are predictive of how much mercury might be in a system and then apply that model to locations where you haven’t sampled dragonflies.

“And that can inform future management actions either to address the factors that are promoting the mercury production or simply to inform agencies that may want to evaluate whether or not fish consumption advisories are warranted.”

The study is in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology.

If you’d like to get involved in the Dragonfly Mercury Project or to see a map of mercury concentrations across the U.S., search for the Dragonfly Mercury Project at nps.gov.


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