Key facts on the interlinkages between biodiversity and mercury pollution

Mercury is an extremely toxic pollutant that, once released into the environment through anthropogenic sources, puts further pressure on biodiversity and ecosystems. It poses a global threat to human health and the environment, persists in the environment, and bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in the food chain.

  • When mercury circulates between air, water, sediments, soil and biota in various forms, may not be removed from this cycle for a century or more.
  • Over 2000 tonnes of mercury are emitted into the air annually from human activity, with almost 38% from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM ), and this, along with emissions from stationary combustion of coal (e.g., coal-fired power plants), contributes 60% of emissions. 
  • ASGM activities are the single biggest source of mercury releases to soil and often take place in biodiverse and sensitive ecosystems around the world, impacting on approximately 100 million people in ASGM communities worldwide.
  • Mercury pollution can have a negative impact on biodiversity. It can interfere with the normal behavior of organisms and their ability to reproduce, causing populations to decline.
  • Mercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and can be particularly harmful to species at the top of the food chain, such as fish-eating birds.
  • Mercury contamination of aquatic habitats can lead to the bioaccumulation of mercury in fish, resulting in the contamination of humans and other species that consume fish.
  • Mercury contamination of soils and water can also reduce the diversity of microorganisms and plants.
  • Mercury pollution can be prevented through the implementation of regulations and best management practices, such as the use of pollution control technologies, waste management systems, and proper management of wastewater.
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a legally binding agreement with provisions regulating anthropogenic activities throughout the entire life cycle of mercury, from its primary mining through its various uses to the management of mercury as waste and management of sites contaminated with mercury.

Joint statement

Pollution from chemicals and wastes a key driver of biodiversity loss, says a new report

Geneva, 21 May 2021

Joint statement by the Secretariats of the Basel, Minamata, Rotterdam, & Stockholm conventions in launching Key Insights from a Study on the Interlinkages between Chemicals and Waste and Biodiversity.

"This study sheds a light of hope on what the chemicals and waste conventions can do – by working in close collaboration – to better protect biological diversity, ecosystem services and human health. If we want to effectively address the critical role of pollution in biodiversity loss, we must understand that such a worldwide, complex problem needs solutions that are interconnected, smart-targeted and shared".

Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention

Minamata Convention COP-4 decision on International Cooperation and Coordination

In March, the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP-4) adopted a decision on international cooperation and coordination, recognizing the Convention's contribution to achieving SDGs and addressing the triple planetary crises of pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change. The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity has been informed of that decision along with the exploratory study.

The secretariat was requested to continue gathering knowledge, raising awareness, and demonstrating the contribution of the Minamata Convention to other international regulations and policies related to pollution, biodiversity, and climate change.

The secretariat was also invited to prepare a report, including possible recommendations, on how the Convention could contribute to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework for consideration by the Conference of the Parties at its fifth meeting.