The British Herpetological Society

The Herpetological Journal is the Society's prestigious quarterly scientific journal. Articles are listed in Biological Abstracts, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences,Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Zoological Record.

 ISSN 0268-0130

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pdf 02.Bioaccumulation of mercury in direct-developing frogs: The aftermath of illegal gold mining in a National Park


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pp. 6-13

Authors: Oscar Mauricio Cuellar-Valencia, Oscar Enrique Murillo-García, Gustavo Adolfo Rodriguez-Salazar, Wilmar Bolívar-García

Abstract: The use of mercury in mining gold is an illegal but still common practice in developing countries and is the world’s largest source of mercury pollution. The mercury released into the environment bioaccumulates in organism tissues due to its chemical properties and can adversely alter wildlife's neurological and reproductive systems. Frogs are susceptible to mercury contamination from gold mining because of their high skin permeability and association with aquatic environments. However, the effect of mercury pollution on direct-developing frogs is poorly known, particularly in tropical highlands. To understand the impact of mercury due to gold mining contamination on biodiversity of Tropical Andes, we assessed the bioaccumulation of mercury on direct-developing frogs of genus Pristimantis in a montane forest. We assessed bioaccumulation by comparing muscle tissue samples of frogs and sediments of streams in an area previously affected by illegal gold mining inside the Farallones de Cali National Park. Even though gold mining has not been conducted in the area for several years, we found mercury in muscle samples of direct-developing species of genus Pristimantis and alarming mercury concentrations in the sediment samples that exceed risk thresholds according international guidelines of the WHO (1.0749 μg.g-1) and countries such as Canada, USA and Brazil (0.35 μg.g-1). Our results suggest that the use of heavy metals in the gold mining can affect non-aquatic species causing bioaccumulation of heavy metals, which can be an important threat to wildlife populations, the stability of the ecosystem, and public health.

Keywords: Andean forests, mercury pollution, muscle tissue, streams pollution, sediments, total mercury


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